A PROJECT which was set up to maximise the tourism potential of Arran and Ayrshire has claimed success in its first 24 months with businesses working together.

The Ayrshire and Arran Tourism Team, funded by the three local authorities, is working with the tourism industry to increase annual visitor numbers by 10 per cent and visitor spending by £68 million to £418m.

Currently, the area benefits from 3.5 million visitors who spend almost £350 million each year. The industry supports 8,900 jobs and it is hoped this number will grow in line with visitor spending. Key areas identified for development by the team included golf, watersports, cycling, walking and culture and heritage.

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Lesley Bloomer, South Ayrshire Council's executive director for economy, neighbourhood and environment, said: "Tourism is a crucial part of the economy for Ayrshire and Arran and the progress made to maximise this in its first two years is very encouraging.

"Working in partnership with public bodies and private enterprise our aim is to build on the momentum of this excellent start."

Moira Birtwistle, chairwoman of the Ayrshire and Arran Tourism Team, described the report as encouraging. Since launching, the team's website, www.ayrshire-arran.org has seen 350 tourism businesses register. In addition, 38 golf clubs have come together to look at ways of creating a regional approach to golf marketing

Also, a partnership with the Firth of Clyde Forum and the Royal Yachting Association Scotland, to promote the coastline, has resulted in the launch of www.watersportscoast.com.