A new study looking at how the Caledonian Railway could attract more people throughout the year could benefit community tourist attractions across the country.
University of the West of Scotland (UWS) researchers will spend a year looking at opportunities for the Caledonian Railway, as they aim to determine the best ways to build on the ‘shoulder months’, when visitor numbers drop off in line with the colder weather.
As a community run attraction, the Caledonian Railway relies on a volunteer workforce to organise and host events, and maintain its stock of historic steam and diesel engines.
So, says Siobhan Drummond senior lecturer in Marketing, Events and Tourism at UWS, finding ways to develop their service requires additional resources and support.
She said: “The Caledonian Railway is a fantastic example of a well-run tourist attraction that enjoys great support from the community, but it needs to attract more people during the traditional quiet times, during the autumn and winter, if it is to become more sustainable.”
Match funded by the Department for Transport and UWS, the £60,000 project will see UWS researchers Siobhan and colleague Sandro Carnicelli, Programme Leader for BA (Hons) Events Management and BA Tourism Management, spend the next year looking at all aspects of the railway’s target market, volunteer resource and funding options, pulling together a feasibility plan on implementing the findings.
Explaining the areas they wish to explore, Sandro said: “Among the things we’ll look at is how we can enhance community involvement and how we can grow awareness of the railway not just in the local area, but among rail and history enthusiasts throughout the country.
“For example, can we create events that link up with other attractions or organisations? Are there things we can do with schools as part of an educational offering? There’s also the potential to connect with scientific, engineering or historical organisations to offer ‘hands-on’ activities, such as how to get an old steam engine to work.”
The academics from UWS’ School of Business and Enterprise say the outcomes of the project will not only benefit the local community and the Caledonian Railway with knowledge about their services, but can be generalised among other heritage railways around UK.
Siobhan said: “The challenges faced by the Caledonian Railway are not uncommon in many community developed tourism enterprises, so we’re hopeful this study will be extremely useful for a number of organisations.”
Ken Joy, director of the Caledonian Railway, added: “We are very pleased to be working with the University of the West of Scotland on this project. To have such expertise helping us develop our attraction is fantastic and we are looking forward to unlocking new initiatives that will grow our business.”