The Forth Bridges area benefits from tourism support from all the partners in the Forth Bridges Forum.
At the national level, VisitScotland’s campaigns markets Scotland to the world and current activity includes Year of Stories 2022; Scotland is Calling with its Respect, Protect, Enjoy environmental focus supporting message; and a fun partnership with the Beano and Scotrail. The VisitScotland website, e-newsletter and social media channels reach millions of people and have rich coverage of the Forth Bridges area.
VisitScotland is one of the partners behind the world’s first UNESCO Trail, of which the Forth Bridge is one of the stops. This digital activity was launched during COP26 in 2021 and encourages visitors to explore the UNESCO world heritage sites in Scotland, including the Forth Bridge, and features some local tourism businesses.
While Transport Scotland, BEAR Scotland, Visit West Lothian and Network Rail also cover this location, I want to touch on the two local authorities which cover the bridgehead areas. Firstly, the recently refreshed Welcome to Fife website and social media regularly include the Forth Bridges area and the new QR code for Fife features the Forth Bridge. Meanwhile, Forever Edinburgh’s multi-layered approach continues to engage leisure visitors and Edinburgh residents through its website and campaigns.
The Forth Bridges Forum formed a new Tourism Group to deliver the Forth Bridges Area Tourism Strategy, which was launched in 2019 – about six months before Covid-19 transformed all our lives, particularly affecting our travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors. The Tourism Group appointed a project manager to implement this strategy, and this is where I come in as Tourism Strategy Manager.
The strategy’s key objective is to promote the location of the Bridges spanning the Firth of Forth as a unique tourist destination. The marketing strategy supports this and there are four live main projects which all tie together.
Firstly, the website theforthbridges.org has evolved over the years as a focal point for traffic information, the UNESCO world heritage site designation and the building of the Queensferry Crossing. The Tourism Group has now been given the opportunity to refresh this website as a focal point for tourism information, bringing new visitors to the area, linking to the social media activity and through to partner and business sites, as well as hosting the new Forth Bridges Trail. This project tender has been awarded and the exciting work is now underway.
The second tourism initiative is the use of the Facebook and Instagram accounts to focus on promoting the Bridges and the surrounding area. For the last seven months I have been able to share some beautiful photography of the Bridges, historical information, local activities and businesses. The audience is growing and the posts have reached nearly half a million people in the last three months alone. Once the website is relaunched, there will be a stronger links through these social media channels.
Tourism signage is the third part of the programme. A signage strategy for the Forth Bridges area was commissioned in early 2020. The Tourism Group members have initially been able to support a first phase of this, which will focus on 16 signs across North and South Queensferry and the Forth Road Bridge. QR codes on these signs will link to the website and the new Forth Bridges Trail.
Some of the sites will be refurbished existing signs, which will keep the striking profile but change to Forth Bridge red. New maps and graphics will be produced depending on the location. The necessary planning permission and listed building consent work is underway, while the new graphic panels and maps are developed.
The final piece of the jigsaw at the moment is to introduce the Forth Bridges Trail. This Trail uses the new signs as anchor points, encouraging initial travel to the area by bus or train, in a loop over the Forth Bridge by train, through North and South Queensferry, and across the Forth Road Bridge, not forgetting the unique experience of travelling beneath the bridges on one of the excellent river trip options. Web, social and marketing activities will follow to launch the Trail when all of the new initiatives are in place later this year.
Click here to view presentation slides from the Forth Bridges Forum public meeting held on 14 June 2022.