By Jenni Steele
IT IS easy to forget while watching the latest blockbuster or enjoying a cult classic that screen tourism is a very real and valuable trend in Scotland.
Over the decades, the country’s screen appearances have inspired visitors from around the world world to discover the star locations in real life.
Daniel Craig’s journey in his iconic Aston Martin to his family home near Glencoe marked 2012 as a high point for film tourism in Scotland.
That same year, Disney gave us its first Scottish princess in the Pixar production, Brave, with Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis and Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire drawn by animators.
And then there was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, shot above Loch Bealach Culaidh; the big-budget adaptation of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas showing Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Clackmannanshire Bridge in various forms and decades; and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, with the Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye as the starting point for this extraterrestrial adventure.
It’s amazing to think that Scotland featured in four of the 17 highest-grossing films at the global box office that year.
Over the next 10 years, the world film franchises have continued to use Scotland – see Fast & Furious and Marvel’s Avengers – in addition to the historic dual title of Outlaw King and Mary Queen of Scots.
This equates to increasing breadth and depth of opportunities to reach international markets.
Screen Scotland recently produced a report which valued screen tourism at £55m to the Scottish economy, based on visitors – known as set-jetters – engaging in screen tourism activities, such as visiting a place from a TV series or movie.
The historical television drama Outlander is making headlines for its enthusiastic fans – mostly from North America but also from Germany and France – who visit the series-related attractions.
With many historic sites being used as film locations, the increase in visitation has helped support the conservation of Scotland’s heritage. Although there were challenges, the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund helped support improved facilities.
VisitScotland continues to encourage visitors to explore responsibly. Our new film guide, Set in Scotland, is part of this activity to extend the benefits of screen tourism beyond ‘hotspots’ and provide a resource for the industry to develop new experiences.
But screen tourism goes beyond visiting a film set.
Films engage audiences in ways that traditional forms of marketing do not and have a longevity that lasts beyond box office receipts.
In the same vein as product placement in a film, a country appearing on screen reinforces the brand of the destination.
In the foreword to Set in Scotland, actor legend James Cosmo talks about the connection he has witnessed between visitors and films such as Highlander and Braveheart.
They are visitors who have been inspired to travel to Scotland after seeing the sights, sounds, people and places of the country on screen.
Cinema has this power to connect with people all over the world.
Jenni Steele is Head of Film and Creative Industries at VisitScotland