The Way I See It

ANY initiative aimed at raising the number of visitors to Hawick is a welcome idea. I, as well as many other local residents, will have read last week’s front page article regarding the town of the horse project with great interest.

Unique and invigorating ideas are essential when it comes to enticing people to Hawick and maintaining a healthy tourism trade. I do like the idea of a town trail, don’t get me wrong. And I’m trying very hard not to rain on someone’s parade.

Indeed, the men who’ve nurtured this idea deserve credit for at least trying to boost tourism in the town. It also seems great sense to use horses as the theme of a town trail. After all, this is horse country, and not just for six weeks of Common-Riding festivities either.

There is an abundance of race horse trainers, professional and aspiring jockeys, eventers and those who simply find riding horses as a great way to relax or see the countryside. Equestrianism here is a way of life for many.

The thing is, and I’ll admit it before you read on, I’m no expert when it comes to generating tourism and thinking of viable ways to encourage more people to visit Hawick. Put simply; I’m a citizen of the town with an opinion, only difference being I can broadcast it through my humble blog. In effect, I’m trying to cover my own backside, in the event I’m completely wrong, which is a highly possible outcome!

And here’s the big but, as beautiful and as elaborate as the statues and stickers of horses may be, once sited ubiquitously around the town, I just don’t think it will have a huge impact on the amount of people travelling to Hawick. Nor do I believe it will play a significant role in the regeneration of the High Street.

Why? Well, I understand the vision which Messrs Smith, Ford, Monaghan and Johnston have come up with. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to tighten the link with horses and Hawick, so that when one is thought of, the other immediately follows. However, the bond to me is already a hugely significant one, even people who know very little about Hawick, have quite often heard of the Common-Riding and the tradition of riding the boundaries.

I’ve also no doubt in my mind that Hawick is at its busiest and most prosperous during the weeks in which we celebrate our history. Any tourists interested in witnessing Hawick for its links to equine creatures and the historic festival will be visiting during the Common-Riding, not in the height of summer or any other time of year.

Mr Smith is keen for Hawick to be known as the town of the horse, much akin to the way Wigtown is known as the town of the book. This to me seems a little short-sighted; especially considering that Hawick has many other facets which could be utilised in order to encourage more visitors.

Things such as knitwear, sport, influential people from the past, a mightily impressive park, with its own museum and not to mention the various wildlife and scenic riverside walks.

Sticking all our eggs in one basket, so to speak, may attract people who have an interest in that specific item. However, others may simply perceive the town to be of little interest to them, as there’s nothing there other than the object the town is so closely intertwined with – in this case the horse.

Truth is, Hawick has a lot more to offer and this must be emphasized before any money is put into this idea, or things taken further and an application made for funding.

Those involved should p think long and hard over whether or not they can improve on their vision or come up with a better way to influence tourism positively. For me, this isn’t it, but I guess only time will tell . . .