THE south of Scotland could become a staycation haven in a French-inspired drive to attract more motorhome traffic.

Known as "aires", there are around 4000 overnight stopping points for campervan travellers in France which offer basic amenities and a safe and legal place to sleep.

Now Dumfries & Galloway Council is set to offer grants of up to £5000-per-site to private and community organisations to set up aires in its area, which is home to the South West Coastal 300 touring route.

The plan aims to make the region a must-stop for the UK's growing fleet of motorhome tourists. There has been a boom in the use of the vehicles during the pandemic, driven up in part during 2020 and 2021 by restrictions on overseas travel.

As many as 250,000 were in use in 2020, with another 15,000 registered between September that year and August 2021 – a near-40% increase in new registrations, year-on-year.

The local council says it is now "doing all that it can to tap into this valuable economic source" and will next week give members of its Economy and Resources Committee a report detailing the aires scheme.

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It builds on a 2021 pilot that saw Kirkcudbright swimming pool given £1000 to install three overnight spaces with electrical points and waste disposal facilities.

Since opening in September, it's seen more than 120 vehicles park up at £10-per-night with additional waste disposal charges netting an extra £1330. With a potential annual income of up to £6000, the council says the success should pave the way for similar sites across the authority.

Councillors will now be asked to approve the grant plan to fuel expansion, with each aire allowed to accommodate up to five motorhomes.

Councillor Rob Davidson, who chairs the Economy and Resources Committee, said: "This is an excellent proposal, and one that proved very popular in our initial trial last year. Tourism is one of our most important economic sectors in our beautiful rural region. The target would be 15 new aires with an average of four bays each, creating nearly 22,000 spaces over a year.

"Based on VisitScotland touring figures we would expect an occupancy rate of 41%, giving an income to the aires owners of around £90,000. The average tourist to Scotland spends £28 per day in the local economy, making a potential extra income into the region of over £500,000."

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Vice-chair Archie Dryburgh added: "This is a great opportunity for our local small businesses or land owners to make some extra income and we will help to make this vision a reality as much as we can.

"The grant would pay for signage, site markings, site improvements, web design, black and grey water disposal and lighting, although any lighting or power options would have to be sustainable as part of our commitment to net zero."