Agenda: Film tourism is a feather in cap of Scotland

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The 73rd Edinburgh Film Festival opened with an off-beat Scottish film mixing hip hop, teen angst, homicidal elites and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – all set in the stunning Highlands.

Boyz in the Wood is a boisterous affair and one that perfectly encapsulates the diversity of Scotland’s big screen appearances.

Just look to the past year. Scotland appeared in two of the top three grossing films of 2018.

Loch Long in Argyll made a welcome cameo in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, while Edinburgh played a starring role in Avengers: Infinity War.

To see the word Scotland emblazoned across the screen and the Scottish capital in all its glory felt as super as those heroes who battled against Thanos.

And then we had the historic double of Outlaw King and Mary Queen of Scots, both telling Scottish stories with a healthy dose of Scottish locations to boot. Not to mention St Abb’s Head making its appearance in this year’s Avengers: Endgame as New Asgard.

All this amounts to a Scotland which is not too far from your local cinema and acts as a shop window for Scottish tourism to turn viewers into visitors.

With our research showing that almost one in five visitors are influenced to come to our shores after seeing Scotland on the big or small screen the potential for film tourism is huge and one which has already produced dividends.

As early as Local Hero to Braveheart, Harry Potter and James Bond, Scotland’s on-screen credentials have had a knock-on effect for tourism.

Some film fans seek out the locations of their favourite flick giving them a visitor boost. We call it set-jetting – whereby jet-setters are drawn to a destination to visit on-screen locations.

In the year following the publication of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Rosslyn Chapel, which formed part of the plot, saw visitor numbers rise by 72 per cent to 118,151. That figure increased further to 175,053 following the release of the Tom Hanks-starring film in 2006.

For us as a destination it is a chance to alert viewers to more than just the stunning on-screen location.

Recently, it has been the small screen that has proved the most fruitful, with time-travelling series Outlander inspiring visitors from Europe, the US, and increasingly China, to visit filming locations. It has resulted in 67% visitor growth in those attractions since 2013.

We know there is demand from visitors – it is about managing expectations and, through collaboration, building a visitor experience that is memorable.

For the release of Outlaw King we worked in partnership with Sigma Films and Netflix to promote not only the film locations, but the historical ones too, including a special screening with Historic Environment Scotland and Fife Council close to Dunfermline Abbey, which is both the resting place of Robert the Bruce and a key filming location.

Outlaw King and Mary Queen of Scots gave us the opportunity to promote the real-life characters in online maps detailing the filming locations alongside attractions linked to their lives. So far both maps have each received more than 150,000 page views.

Our Outlander assets have recently been updated to give visitors even more details about the locations to visit, enabling them to plan their trip in more depth, creating a 100% increase in social conversations around the topic.

Tourism is vital to the Scottish economy, reaching every corner of the country, creating jobs and bringing economic and social change.

For film tourism it is about capturing the attention of an already captive market and encouraging them to explore far beyond what they see on screen.

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