The economic value of Robert Burns to Scotland is to be assessed by university chiefs.
Professor Murray Pittock, of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at Glasgow University, will lead the research.
Funded by the Scottish Government, it will assess how the “worldwide fascination” with Scotland’s national bard is supporting Scottish business and jobs.
It will also look at the potential for Burns to further support regional growth in hotels, restaurants, food and drink industries and memorabilia.
The study is believed to be a world first in carrying out a thorough assessment of the economic value of a global icon.
Professor Pittock, pro-vice principal at the university, said: “Tourism and food and drink are two of the three largest industries in Scotland, which in their turn reflect a highly visible national Scottish brand in the global marketplace, a brand which owes an enormous debt to Scotland’s 18th and 19th century history.
“We need to understand the relationship between our culture and our economy more fully in order to maximise our already world-leading position.”
Within the UK, culture and heritage tourism in Scotland attracts more visitors than anywhere outside London.
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway is second only to Shakespeare among UK writers’ museums in its visitor numbers.
University chiefs say up to nine million people now attend Burns Suppers every year across the world, while Norwegian Airlines put the poet’s name on the tail fin of one of their planes.
The research project will run until summer 2019, with an interim report published ahead of the January Burns season.
Professor Gerard Carruthers, co-director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, said: “More than 250 years after his birth, Robert Burns, his life and work, still holds a continued and growing fascination for a worldwide audience.
“Therefore it’s vital to have a well-researched, clear and up-to-date picture of what this looks like in economic terms – for business, tourism and jobs. We are delighted to play our part in this important research.”
Dr Alasdair Allan, Minister for International Development and Europe at the Scottish Government: “We are delighted to fund the work that Professor Pittock and colleagues will carry out in assessing the impact of Robert Burns on the Scottish Economy, and particularly how this could be further harnessed to drive inclusive economic growth for Scotland.
“The report team will link to the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, and to the developing Ayrshire Regional Partnership – two areas of Scotland intrinsically linked with Robert Burns – but will also examine the scope for development across the country as a whole.”
The research project will run until the summer of 2019, with an interim report ahead of the Burns season in January.