Representatives from the tourism and food and drink sectors in Dumfries & Galloway and the Borders have held an inaugural meeting to establish a new South of Scotland Food and Tourism Leadership Group.
Initiated by industry organisations Visit South West Scotland, DG Food and Drink, Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership and Scottish Borders Food and Drink Network, and enabled with support from VisitScotland, the meeting held last week established an agreement to work collaboratively on a shared vision to maximise the emerging opportunities within both industries across the south of Scotland.
Carron Tobin, a tourism destination development expert who has supported other regions across Scotland, welcomed the group’s establishment.
She said: “We know from past experience that destination development works best when the businesses working within an area are empowered to determine their own needs. For rural areas in particular it is important that the voice of local businesses and communities is heard before deciding what the marketing narrative or place based brand should be.
“This meeting is an exciting development in the south of Scotland becoming empowered to determine how the area should be marketed. The collaboration between both industries in this meeting was an innovative approach, reflecting how these important sectors are intertwined across the south of Scotland economy.
Paula Ward, region leadership director for the south of Scotland, said that the area is known for its natural larder, stunning location and high quality of visitor experience which can be built upon.
She added: “The economic growth potential within tourism and the food and drink sector are intrinsically linked and the creation of the new South of Scotland Economic Agency offers a once in a generation opportunity to shape the way we approach growth. To realise our potential we need strong industry led by inspiring leaders and this feels like the journey has now started.”
Local MSP Finlay Carson also praised the partnership approach.
He added: “I would hope this new leadership group will help unlock the region’s tourism and food development potential to help boost our rural economy. I believe by working together Dumfries and Galloway and the whole of the South of Scotland can be promoted as a positive place to live, work and visit.”