Kites help tourism to fly

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A Dumfries and Galloway wildlife project launched in 2003 has brought significant economic benefits to the local area, a new report has found.

Visitors to the Galloway Kite Trail, a partnership project led by RSPB Scotland, have spent a minimum of £33 million in the region since 2004, with more than £4.1 million spent by people who came specifically to see the kites. The project has also supported, on average, the equivalent of almost 15 full-time jobs a year, with an estimated 20 such jobs supported in 2010 and 2011.

The new figures, collated by Jude Hartley, while on a Conservation Volunteers placement with RSPB Scotland, will come as welcome news to the region, whose tourism industry has been affected by bad weather and the economic downturn in recent years.

The trail, which is a self-guided tour circling Loch Ken near Castle Douglas, promotes a carefully laid out set of destinations for visitors, including red kite viewing sites, activities and local businesses.

Loch Ken Holiday Park is one such business that has played a part in the trail since it began. Park owner and local farmer Mungo Bryson is pleased with this association and said: “The red kite project in Dumfries and Galloway has been a resounding success. The introduction of red kites to this area has been wonderful, not only for the opportunity to see these majestic birds but also for the visitor numbers to the local area.”

Caroline and David Lawrie run the Schoolhouse at Ringford. They got involved relatively recently and now promote the trail from their restaurant on the A75 trunk road. Caroline said: “As we are located on the region’s main trunk road, many of our customers are usually passing through.

“Having the kite trail on our doorstep means that more people stay around to see the kites or go for a short walk and then think about coming back for a future visit to the area. The trail has certainly helped attract visitors and we are pleased to be part of the experience.”

The Galloway Kite Trail was set up following the successful reintroduction of red kites into Galloway after an absence of 130 years.

The birds were persecuted to extinction in Scotland in the 19th century but have now made a comeback, with the estimated local population now standing at around 330 to 380 kites. Since their reintroduction, the project has been supported by Scottish Natural Heritage.

Chris Miles, SNH area manager, said: “The reintro­duction of this species has been a great success story, with a self-sustaining population now slowly spreading out from the Loch Ken area. It’s even more satisfying to know that this wildlife spectacle is also creating a real economic benefit. Projects like this perfectly illustrate why we’ll be celebrating Scotland’s outstanding natural heritage attractions in Year of Natural Scotland 2013.”

More details on the Galloway Kite Trail can be found at http://www.gallowaykitetrail.com/ or visit the Galloway Kite Trail Facebook page

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Galloway-Kite-Trail/118733128240753?ref=ts&fref=ts