TOURISM chiefs have unveiled a £500,000 campaign targeted at persuading Scots to holiday at home when the nation hosts its busiest ever calendar of events.
The “Doorsteps” initiative, which will involve a TV advert to be shown during Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Midsomer Murders, will spearhead the home front of the Scottish Government’s multi-million pound “Homecoming” campaign this year.
The “Doorsteps” - the fifth 2014 promotional film to be released by VisitScotland in the space of a few weeks - is aimed at encouraging people to take in some of the 430 events which are being promoted under the banner of the campaign.
It includes footage from the Wickerman music festival in Dumfriesshire, the Islay Festival of Malt and Music, the Edinburgh Fringe, Lochearnhead Highland Games, and the Return to the Ridings event in the Borders.
The advert, created by the Edinburgh-based Leith Agency, is expected to be seen by around five million viewers by the end of January alone after it is shown across Scotland, as well as in the north of England and Northern Ireland.
It was unveiled as Scotland’s tourism minister insisted he and other SNP politicians - including First Minister Alex Salmond - would continue to promote the Homecoming campaign in the run-up to the referendum, insisting it would be kept strictly free of political issues.
Mike Cantlay, chair of VisitScotland, said the country was “dependent” on attracting visitors from around Scotland to survive. According to the latest figures from the tourism body, day and overnight trips around the country from Scots are said to be worth £5.3 billion - almost half of the overall value of the industry.
Scots holidaying at home are currently responsible for around 25 per cent of the value of the industry, although this figure is dwarfed by visitors from England, who provide almost 40 per cent of income for tourism businesses.
The Homecoming campaign, funded to the tune of £6 million by the government, is being staged to capitalise on the staging of both the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup in Scotland. A separate promotional film was shown to revellers at Hogmanay celebrations across the country last year, under a £500,000 boost for the festivities from the Homecoming fund.
It emerged in November that violinist Nicola Benedetti, the headline act at the opening gala for the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow next week, Glasgow 2014 ambassador Sir Chris Hoy and Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley had agreed to spearhead VisitScotland’s efforts to lure international visitors to Scotland in 2014.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of funding is also going into one-off events marking the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, the 100th anniversary of the death of conservationist John Muir and the 50th anniversary of the Forth Road Bridge, although around 100 events in total are eventually expected to be funded, including established arts festivals.
Mr Cantlay said: “The Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup have both been wonderfully successful in terms of selling tickets - the emphasis now is moving onto the other 430 events that are being held around the country.
“We obviously have different tools for different messages. This campaign is all about Homecoming. We need to get over to Scots, as well as people across the UK and over the water as well, that it is all on their doorsteps this year and that they don’t want to miss out of events that are in some cases complete one-offs.
“For years we’ve been targeting people in Scotland as part of our UK marketing efforts. Tourism here is dependent on Scots. You’d struggle to find a tourist business in the whole of Scotland that isn’t dependent on Scots to some extent.
“Homecoming is not only about Scottish people welcoming others from around the world to celebrate their home country, it’s about Scots themselves, opening their doors to the rich culture and history all around them.”
Mr Ewing said he did see anything wrong with he and his colleagues attending Homecoming events over the course of the year, despite the fact official campaigning for the referendum is due to get underway in July.
He told The Scotsman: “Of course, we’ll be attending many of the Homecoming events, it would be pretty odd if we didn’t.
“This will be partly to thank all of the people who organise these events, most of which are run by unpaid volunteers. As everyone else does, they like to have the huge effort they put in acknowledged.
“We promote Scotland as a place to come and we do so based on our manifold attractions. We don’t politicise it and nor should we. We will be appearing at events but will not be politicising them. We’ll be celebrating them for what they are.”
The Homecoming campaign is aimed at generating extra revenue for the tourism industry, over and above what would be achieved anyway through the Ryder Cup and Commonwealth Games. It is hoped the campaign will generate £44 million in extra tourism revenue - compared to the £54 million said to have been delivered from the previous Homecoming initiative in 2009.
Funding has been ringfenced for a gala opening concert for the Ryder Cup at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, which will also be hosting another publicly-supported event, the MTV Europe Music Awards.
Mr Ewing added: “The world-class events planned for Homecoming 2014 create a huge opportunity for Scotland, boosting our tourism industry and wider economy and positioning our country on the international stage as a dynamic and creative nation.
“We have already seen Lonely Planet name Scotland as one of the three top countries in the world to visit in 2014. CNN recently listed Edinburgh as a top ten city to visit this winter. This fantastic news further adds to the momentum building through spectacular events such as last week’s Hogmanay celebrations.”