THE SOUTH of Scotland aims to become the country’s "fastest growing visitor economy by 2034" as a ten-year tourism strategy was launched this week.

Hundreds of local businesses and communities have fed into the development of a decade-long Responsible Tourism Strategy.

The aim is to grow tourism spend by £1 billion to £1.76bn by 2034, support a further 6,000 jobs in the sector, develop a year-round destination that is ‘go to’ not ‘go through’ and to increase the number of higher-spending, longer-staying international visitors.

The new strategy follows the success of the initial five-year COVID-recovery strategy which exceeded its targets two years early.

The ‘hugely ambitious’ new 10-year tourism strategy for the South of Scotland was launched on Wednesday, March 20, in Dumfries, seeking to “create Scotland’s fastest growing visitor economy”.

Hundreds of delegates from across the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and beyond packed into The Crichton’s Easterbrook Hall for a day of knowledge-sharing and networking, with speakers including tourism minister Richard Lochhead; incoming head of Visit Iceland Oddný Arnarsdóttir; accessible travel specialist Paul Ralph and Melanie Allen, of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere.

Co-developed by five major organisations – the SSDA, South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), VisitScotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council – with input from hundreds of businesses, organisations and communities, the new Responsible Tourism Strategy succeeds the region’s five-year post-pandemic recovery plan.

The South of Scotland set itself a COVID recovery plan for 2020-2025, aiming to establish a £750m visitor economy and increase the associated number of jobs by 6,500.

It successfully exceeded these targets two years ahead of schedule, signalling the visitor economy’s resilience and potential for growth.

The new 10-year strategy will promote the region as a ‘rural escape’ for the 14 million people within two to four hours’ travel time.

Mr Lochhead said: “Tourism is vital to our country, creating jobs, sustaining communities and contributing significantly to the economy.

“This is especially true for more rural areas like the South of Scotland, which is the gateway to our nation with so much for visitors to see and do – from the Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels to the picturesque Port Logan beach near Stranraer.

“The South of Scotland Tourism Strategy aligns with our national ambitions and puts in place the bedrock foundation of looking after the communities, the culture and the amazing natural heritage in this part of the country, to ensure they are here for generations to come.”

Councillor Scott Hamilton, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for community and business development, said: “Our region has so much to offer visitors and we have to continue to build on the efforts across the partners, and within the tourism sector itself, to maximise the benefits for the whole of the South of Scotland.

“I am really excited by this ambitious new strategy and the development of the action plans, which have the potential to be transformative for our economy.”