SCOTLAND’S tourism agency believes the industry will be able to cash in for years to come from a “goldmine” created by the hit American fantasy TV series series Outlander.
VisitScotland has predicted the benefits from the time-travel show, which is based in Scotland and has deployed locations around the country, will far outstrip those from blockbuster movies.
Historic sites featured in the show - including Doune Castle in Perthshire, and the villages of Culross and Falkland in Fife, have seen visitor numbers soar by up to 40 per cent since the show went on air in 2014.
Drummond Castle in Perthshire is bracing itself for a surge of Outlander fans after standing in for the Palace of Versailles in the second series of the show, which is partly set in France, but was not actually filmed there.
Jenni Steele, VisitScotland’s film and TV expert, said Outlander - which is only available in the UK on the streaming service Amazon Prime - represented a huge opportunity to capitalise on the growing “screen tourism” trend around the world, which is already inspiring around 40 per cent of visits to the UK.
Ms Steele, who was speaking at a film tourism summit in Perth, believes the spin-offs from Outlander will easily surpass those generated by hit movies like Macbeth, The Da Vinci Code, Skyfall, Sunshine on Leith and Brave.
She said: “The interest in Outlander around the world is absolutely phenomenal, especially in the US and Germany, and it’s growing a lot in the UK, even though it is not on mainstream TV.
“We’re really lucky that Scotland was voted the best cinematic destination in the world last year. I think we may have a lot of Outlander fans to thank for it as they were continually trying to encourage people to vote for Scotland. We beat some very good destinations like New Zealand and America.
“There are about 40 different Outlander fan groups in different countries and different regions - their knowledge and interest is just unbelievable.
“The characters have their own fan groups and the fans are utterly obsessed with trying to see the stars, especially the actors who play the two main characters Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, who have just rocketed to stardom since they’ve been in the show.
“There is a really warm audience out there for Outlander. They want to come to Scotland to relive it and have their own adventure. We are sitting on a goldmine and we just want to capitalise on that as much as we can.”
American author Diana Gabaldon, whose best-selling books have been adapted for the Sony-Starz series, has so far written eight novels about the adventures of a Second World War nurse who is propelled back in time to 18th century Scotland.
It is hoped production on a third series will again be based in a vast warehouse complex in Cumbernauld if further instalments are given the go-ahead.
VisitScotland has already produced printed and digital Outlander maps to highlight locations used in the show once they have appeared on screen.
Tourism organisations, businesses and operators have been urged to think about how they can tap into the growing interest in Scotland generated by the show.
Ms Steele added: “Outlander has really taken off since it was first shown in he autumn of 2014 and the interest in Scotland, which looks stunning in the production, is fantastic at the moment.
“It has been called our answer to Game of Thrones which it may well be. With TV, the beauty of it is that it just goes on and on. You have the first series, then you have the DVD, then the next series and the DVD of that. It just keeps continuing, whereas sometimes with films you’ve got that initial burst and that is it.
“What you’ve got to remember with Outlander is all the strands within it, like the clans, romance, textiles and history. We know that when people come to Scotland on Outlander tours they don’t just want to see the locations - they actually want to delve beneath that and go to archives to try to find their family ancestry, or go to museums and galleries and link into that too.”