The home of Falkirk’s iconic Kelpies is to be set an ambitious target of attracting one million visitors a year by 2028 – while seeing its funding cut.
The 300-hectare Helix Park will be expected to reduce the subsidy it currently receives from Falkirk Council by around £180,000 in order to help cut the massive £65 million budget gap currently facing the local authority. It is hoped that boosting visitor numbers will make up for the loss of funding.
And bosses will be expected t deliver on these goals while protecting the area as a haven for wildlife.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) members of Falkirk Council’s executive will hear how the five-star tourist attraction has been a huge success for the district, welcoming 865,000 visitors last year, despite the massive disruption caused by the pandemic from 2020-2022.
The Helix visitor centre – including the cafe and gift shop – welcomed 436,912 visitors, smashing its annual target of 375,000. The venue also met all of its income targets for 2022/23, with £1.5 million coming in from catering, retail, car parking and Kelpie Tours.
The aim now is to increase income to £1.75 million by 2028, which would allow the council to reduce the park’s subsidy.
A new business strategy for the Helix, which councillors are expected to approve tomorrow, lays out not just the success stories but also the challenges facing the park. These include the sudden collapse of the Forth Bike e-bike hire scheme, which was popular with visitors travelling between the Helix and other key local attractions.
The report also admits that “travel to the Helix by public transport is limited”, while families visiting on foot or by bike might be put off by the busy roads that surround the park. It also highlights “poor and inconsistent signage, and issues with quality and maintenance of the route” has meant the area has not been able to promote its Helix About Town Trail as much as it would like.
The strategy looks at ways to solve these challenges to increase visitor numbers without disturbing the wildlife that’s a crucial part of the area’s success. One key priority is improving the link from the car park to the visitor centre.
There are also plans to re-imagine the Helix About Town Trail as ‘The Heart of Falkirk’ trail, which will offer an active travel link to the area’s other key attractions, including the Falkirk Wheel and Callendar House.
The strategy that councillors will be asked to agree looks at ways to work with partners, including Scottish Canals, and find external funding wherever possible.
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