The 'real people' chosen to sell Scotland abroad

A LOCH Ness monster investigator, a strongman, the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, and a trendy kilt designer may appear to have little in common.

• The Scots from various walks of life who will front VisitScotland's latest campaign

But today they are to be unveiled as new faces of Scotland's tourism industry.

They are among 14 Scots from all walks of life who will lead efforts to attract more visitors from Europe this year.

A year on from the controversial Homecoming campaign – which saw the likes of Sir Sean Connery, Lulu, Chris Hoy, Sam Torrance and Sandi Thom offer their singing services to the nation – the marketing gurus at VisitScotland have turned to "real faces".

A barman, a wildlife expert, a B&B owner and a hotel concierge have also been enlisted to spearhead the nation's fightback against the economic downturn and present the "friendly face" of Scotland.

VisitScotland said its biggest European marketing campaign yet, which will cost 1.25 million and run until June, has been devised following months of market research in Scotland and across Europe.

A spokeswoman said the campaign had been inspired by high expectations among European visitors of the "friendliness" of Scots.

Well-known figures from the hospitality industry – chefs Tony Singh and Michelin-starred Scotsman writer Lady Claire Macdonald – have agreed to take part, along with award-winning piper Finlay MacDonald, world-class strongman Jamie Barr and "kiltmaker to the stars" Howie Nicholsby.

But, with echoes of the campaign run by Royal Bank of Scotland featuring ordinary Scots, VisitScotland will also be using West Highland ferryman Donnie MacDonald, Glasgow barman Cameron McLachlan and Dornoch-based guesthouse owner Evelyn McLennan.

All 14 participants will appear in advertising campaigns across Europe and on dedicated foreign-language websites.

In interviews and features, they will give their insights into who they are and what they do, what they think is special about Scotland, and their suggestions for what to do throughout the year.

VisitScotland said the Grey Group, one of the world's leading marketing and branding agencies, had worked on the campaign.

Denise Hill, VisitScotland's head of international marketing, said: "Many European visitors are extremely knowledgeable about Scotland and want to experience a deeper understanding of the country and its people.

"Using our Scots to front the campaign allows us to provide consumers with a greater depth of information and insider tips – the kinds of things you don't find in the guidebooks and the real gems you discover by meeting local people."

David Isaac, creative director at Family, an Edinburgh advertising agency, said: "They look like real Scots and typical of the people you meet here. Someone like Adrian Shine at Loch Ness is a definite character; only in Scotland would you find people like that.

"You can only show lochs and glens so many times before you need a fresh angle. Previous campaigns may have missed this and the new approach is laudable."

Chef Tony Singh said the selection of people seemed "pretty random", but added that this was a good thing.

He said: "We'll be explaining a bit about what we do and what we like around Scotland.

"Scotland has evolved as a country quite a bit over the years and although we're still very proud of our heritage, it also has a very modern side. We've been trying to get away from the kind of McTatty image for a while and I think this campaign will help."

Friendly faces to welcome European visitors

1. Tony Singh, restaurateur and chef at Oloroso, Edinburgh, says his food mixes his Sikh heritage and Scottish identity.

2. Lady Claire Macdonald, chef and hotelier at the Michelin-starred Kinloch Lodge, Skye. She is married to the chief of Clan Macdonald.

3. Evelyn McLennan, owner of Kyleview House B&B, Dornoch.

4. Gary Forbes is head golf professional at Murcar Links, Aberdeenshire.

5. Jamie Barr, heavy athlete, is an elite world-class strongman whose titles include Strongest Man in Scotland, Britain and Europe.

6. Adrian Shine, Loch Ness expert, designed the award-winning Loch Ness

Exhibition.

7. Caroline Warburton, wildlife expert, runs Wild Scotland, a consortium of Scottish wildlife tourism operators.

8. Finlay MacDonald, head of piping studies, National Piping Centre, Glasgow, has links with Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow.

9. Julia Trevisan-Hunter, whisky expert, is marketing manager at the five-star Scotch Whisky Experience in the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, the world's largest collection of Scotch whisky.

10. Derek Watt, concierge at Prestonfield House, Edinburgh, encourages couples to book visits to romantic locations.

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