Galloway now “cut off” from tourism efforts

The old Tourist Information office
The old Tourist Information office

Business leaders in Newton Stewart are becoming increasingly disenchanted with VisitScotland’s effort to promote tourism in Wigtownshire.

Complaints about the national tourism agency include road signs directing visitors from England north rather than west and replacing the dedicated tourist information centre in Dashwood Square’s car park with a trial ‘interactive booth’ in the Wigtown Rural Development Company offices in Queen Street.

A crisis meeting called last week to discuss a way forward attracted 50 people, including members of Newton Stewart Initiative, Newton Stewart Business Association, Wigtownshire Chamber of Commerce and community representatives from Wigtown, Whithorn, Stranraer and Gatehouse.

After the meeting, NSI spokesman David Inglis said: “The visitor centre has been downgraded to a ‘kiosk’ and it was agreed that this was totally inadequate since the WRDC office is closed at weekends and the kiosk can only be used by one family at a time.

“It was generally felt by those present that the area was becoming increasingly cut off, with the Galloway Tourist Route being used as a prime example of this. The route starts at Gretna and travels through Dumfries, Dalbeattie, Castle Douglas and then heads north through Dalry and on into Ayrshire.

“Tourism providers are also complaining about falling revenues but everyone at the meeting agreed the area has the attractions necessary to be successful but could be better promoted.

“The idea of an area wide body being set up to manage tourism promotion was discussed along with possible funding sources being sought to help with the set up and ongoing costs associated with such a group. With the constant complaint about the negative impact that windfarms are having on the area it was felt that they should be approached to make a contribution to help alleviate this and be seen to be directly putting something back into the tourism sector.”

Mr Inglis and Wolf Richthofen, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce outlined some ideas regarding the formation of a West Galloway Coastal Tourist Route running from Gatehouse to Ballantrae hugging the coast all the way.

Dumfries and Galloway councillor Iain Dick added would be tabling a motion to the full council requesting support for the formation of the new route at Dumfries and Galloway Council’s next monthly meeting and the NSI, NSBA and WCC will now arrange another meeting at which it is hoped that elected members, MSP’s, MP and VisitScotland representatives will attend.

Paula McDonald, VisitScotland, Regional Director of VisitScotland, said;

“I was invited to attend last week’s meeting but was unfortunately unable to attend as I had already committed to speak at another event. I am in discussions with the Chair of Wigtown Chamber of Commerce regarding dates for another meeting to take discussions forward on VisitScotland’s continued support for tourism in the local area.

“We are committed to working in partnership with local stakeholders and the business community in order to realise their ambitions for the area. I am pleased that businesses are so engaged in co-operating together to achieve this.

“We support the innovative and excellent events in the area such as Wigtown Book Town Festival, Spring Fling and Newton Stewart Walking Festival. These events have previously been supported either by aligning their activity with our themed years, or through funding from our EventScotland team. VisitScotland, as a tourism marketing organisation, responds to consumer trends and research and we will continue to work closely with businesses to offer local, national and international marketing opportunities.”