THE Borders Railway has helped put the region on the tourist map, says VisitScotland Regional Director, Doug Wilson.

As the summer tourist season draws to a close, the man in charge of tourism in the south believes that businesses in the area have benefitted from the re-establishment of the Borders Railway one year ago.

Doug, who lives in Stow and was appointed to the role in April, said: “More than one million people travelled on the Borders Railway during its first year of operation and going by train on the route has created a superb new tourism experience in itself.

“The re-establishment of the route has had a massive impact on tourism and right across the region, and it shows no signs of slowing down. VisitScotland recently held a successful industry conference in Galashiels, bringing together tourism experts and local businesses to help ensure that together we continue to capitalise on the opportunities that now exist due to increased connectivity and greater visitor numbers.”

Doug’s first season in the job has been a busy one, with highlights including the Borders Book Festival, the Tour of the Borders and the Flying Scotsman making a return to the region.

Local festivals have also experienced a bumper year with record numbers attending the recent Borders Heritage Festival as well as the Borders Book Festival in June.

The Tweedlove Bike Festival is now the UK’s biggest bike festival and has helped put the Borders on the cycling map as one of the best destinations for road and mountain biking.

Doug said: “It is great to see the success of a new festival like the Creative Coathanger, celebrating the region’s ties to the textile and creative arts industry.

"And I was pleased to see the partnership working that helped create the first ever Scottish Borders Winter Festival this December - I know that a great amount of effort goes into making these events a success, many run by local volunteers.

"I would encourage people working in the tourism industry in the Scottish Borders to make the most of the opportunities available from VisitScotland."

The launch of VisitScotland’s first ever global campaign – the Spirit of Scotland – in February has placed a large emphasis on creating a social movement to help promote the country to the world.

Attractions in the Scottish Borders have been catapulted into the global spotlight as a result of the campaign with images of Jedburgh Abbey and Leaderfoot Bridge attracting massive amounts of engagement on our social media channels in the summer. Posts about the Scottish Borders attracted more than 168,000 likes, shares, retweets and comments across all VisitScotland media channels.

Doug added: “The way that visitors access information about Scotland has changed dramatically over the past five years and our ambition is to reach more people than ever before with inspirational and exciting information about Scotland.

"We are delighted that more than 30 businesses in the Scottish Borders are now part of the Visitor Information Partner programme, part of the Spirit of Scotland campaign, harnessing the local knowledge and enthusiasm, of staff at attractions to help visitors make the most of their trip to Scotland.

“We hope that many more people will continue to share their own treasured stories and images of the Scottish Borders with us through our social media channels and through the iKnow community to ensure that we continue to let people know about the hidden gems to be discovered in the region.

“We are riding high in the Borders at the moment as a result of the success of the railway and the BBC documentary The River showcasing the wonderful people and the spectacular sights from the region.

"At VisitScotland we deliver marketing and PR campaign for the Scottish Borders that reach millions of potential national and international visitors. Our most recent direct mail pack which was issued to more than 165,000 homes across the country featured stunning images from the region, including St Abbs Lighthouse and ScotSpirit cyclist Ruaridh Cunningham from Stow.

“As we approach the New Year, I would like to take the opportunity to remind people that 2017 is the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. We have a region rich in historic attractions, unique abbeys and stunning big houses, not to mention some amazing events and festivals, and I am excited about the many opportunities that the year ahead will bring. “