Falkirk could become top holiday destination
Falkirk’s tourism now brings £110 million to the area every year, the council’s scrutiny committee was told.
And the only way is up for visitor numbers – especially if plans for the new arts centre come to fruition, a senior official told councillors.
Douglas Duff, heading of planning, was reporting to councillors that the sector now supported jobs for 2000 people in the area.
But when a councillor asked if visitor numbers were now at their peak, the answer was a firm: “No way!”
Mr Duff said: “We really have to go for this! Falkirk is bang in the middle of Scotland, it’s got great attractions and could have even better ones.
“People are coming their holidays to Falkirk now – you wouldn’t have said that ten years ago.”
Falkirk’s position at an almost equal distance to both of Scotland’s biggest cities, with easy access to the Highlands, puts it in an ideal position to act as a base for tourists coming to see the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel.
The council hopes that the Gateway site which sits right beside Helix Park will bring a hotel and shops to the area, and that will help keep visitors in the area for longer.
Fintry/Hargreaves has been appointed as preferred developer and work is now taking place to assess ground conditions at the site.
Mr Duff says the district should be ambitious – and he believes the proposed arts centre, which would replace Falkirk Town Hall, could be a vital piece in the jigsaw.
“The town centre is the hole in the doughnut. People are coming to the Helix and the Falkirk Wheel, but the question for us is ‘where do they go afterwards?” he said.
A thriving arts centre, that is busy throughout the day as well as night, could be the key to bringing visitors into the heart of the town where footfall is desperately needed.
Councillors asked what impact Brexit might have on tourism and they were told “it’s a double-edged sword”.
Mr Duff said: “It’s certainly a concern – we are cognisant of the impact it could have.
“But when it comes to tourism, there’s two sides to that – the economic pressure might well leave people with less money in their pocket to spend but it could also mean a boost for UK tourist attractions.
“The domestic market will be very important for us.”
The meeting heard that Falkirk Council is working with local tourism businesses – through Falkirk Tourism Partnership – and Visit Scotland to produce a tourism strategy for the area.
This includes collaboration with Forth Valley neighbours Stirling and Clackmannanshire councils.