Proposals to overhaul tourism in South Ayrshire

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South Ayrshire is missing out on tourists – that is the view of a council report which states the area has “punched below its weight” as a destination of choice.

Despite being the birthplace of Robert Burns, boasting idyllic beaches and top golf courses, sightseers are bypassing the area. 

Depute council leader Brian McGinley wants that to change and is leading proposals to overhaul tourism. 

The council has ordered a major shake-up of its tourism team and is devising a new masterplan to entice crowds to the area. 

Labour Councillor McGinley said: “As portfolio carrier I am pleased that we are tackling some long standing legacy issues around making the most of our tourist offering in South Ayrshire. 

“The new approach will be closer linked to economic development activities as well as building on our natural assets, great traditions and history.”

A review revealed potential “duplication” and a lack of clarity in how the council approaches events and tourism.

Figures show 1.5 million visitors flocked to South Ayrshire in 2018, which generated £220 million. Tourism is the second largest employer in Ayrshire accounting for 12,900 jobs. 

A council report on tourism, events and culture said South Ayrshire should be on the world tourist stage.

The report, which was presented to the Leadership Panel said: …”there is a lot of competition in Scotland for attracting tourists and tourism spend and we must develop a strategy which drives forward our offering at a more aggressive pace.”

The report said the solution does not lie solely with the council but also involves  Visit Scotland, Scottish Golf, transport partners, local businesses and hospitality organisations.

A new plan will be put in front of councillors in April laying out strategies for events and promotion of assets. 

Summer festival Burnsfest, which cost £80,000,  has been ditched because the council  said it cannot afford to run it.

Paying £250,000 for the Scottish International Airshow and £65,000 for the Ladies Open at Troon means there isn’t enough cash left for Burnsfest according to the council report. 

Councillor McGinley hailed the new January spectacle Burns on the Beach as a hit. 

He said: “The recent programme within our winter festival programme which included the innovative first time ‘Burns on the Beach’ has proved to be a huge success.

“We were also delighted in this programme to work beside local groups like the Ayr Rugby Club to encourage a reach beyond what the council directly offers into the very hearts of our communities.”

He said: “We want to move away from the one-off, stand alone events which have a one time hit to a more integrated programme that is continuous and builds partnerships within local communities.”