“Brave,” the latest film by Disney Pixar, highlights Scotland’s castles, royalty, ancient history, myths and legends, clans and culture, landscapes, wildlife and more. // © 2011 Disney/Pixar
Scotland is expected to start conquering travel wish lists thanks to the help of a warrior princess — Merida from Disney Pixar’s latest film, “Brave.” The film takes place in the Scottish Highlands and showcases the locations, people, culture and essence of Scotland, presenting the country to a wide and varied audience. Coupled with a marketing campaign by VisitScotland, the country will be top of mind for many consumers.
“We saw a spike of 15 percent in American visitors to Scotland last year, and there’s a very clear latent demand for Europe,” said Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland. “There are a lot of people who have been to Scotland and would like to return. A spike that we’d expect from this movie happened with [1995’s] ‘Braveheart,’ which brought a huge influx of interest.”
In order to capitalize on the buzz surrounding Scotland, travel agents need to revisit what they know about the country, brush up on what’s new and consider how interest in “Brave” can turn into steady, long-term sales.
Due to the nature of the Disney and Pixar brands, travel agents should not brush off the shelf-life of the film’s influence.
“The film is selling in many divisions now across Disney, and its legacy will go on for years,” said Cantlay.
One division, Adventures by Disney, is well-suited to help travel agents capitalize on “Brave.” The tour operator’s first Pixar-inspired itinerary, “Scotland: A Brave Adventure” is a nine-day, eight-night journey through Edinburgh, the Isle of Skye, the Isle of Lewis and Inverness. Disney’s trip specialists collaborated with the “Brave” production team in order to include the landscapes, castles and legends that influenced the film. Guests visit the inspiration behind the film’s Witch’s cottage (the Black House of Arnol and the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village) as well as one of the muses for the DunBroch family’s home (Dunnottar Castle). Hands-on activities allow guests to experience the culture captured in the film. Making Scottish pastries, learning Celtic music and dance and playing traditional highland games on the Isle of Skye; horseback riding in the Caledonian Forest; learning archery at Glamis Castle; and discovering tapestry making at Edinburg’s Dovecot Studios are among the highlights.
Selling Scotland through the purview of “Brave” should not be treated as a totally new venture for travel agents familiar with the destination. Even if a vacation is sold directly due to interest in the film, the trip should, and can, include Scotland’s top sights. Adventures by Disney’s itinerary, for example, includes Eilean Donan and Edinburgh Castles, the ancient Callanish Standing Stones and Dun Carloway Broch on the Isle of Lewis. During privately-guided tours through the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the National Museum of Scotland, clients will learn about the ancient period in which the film is set. While visiting Loch Ness, clients search for a monster as they canoe to Urqyhart Castle.
VisitScotland also has created its own downloadable itineraries related to “Brave,” featuring must-see sights, images and a map. Themes include ancient Scotland, clans and Scottish culture, inspirational landscapes, myths and legends, wildlife and Scottish castles.
Scotland Developments and Events
"Brave" is just one of the programs included in Scotland’s new corporate campaign called the Winning Years, which focuses on major events happening in Scotland within the next few years. Events include Scotland’s Themed Years (Year of Creative Scotland in 2012, Natural Scotland in 2013 and Homecoming Scotland in 2014); the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2014 Ryder Cup.
“Fifteen million Americans claim Scottish ancestry. In 2009, we reached out to the Diaspora — affinity Scots — with the pitch to come to Scotland, see where everyone came from and celebrate your Scottishness,” said Cantlay. “The next homecoming is in 2014 and it’s a year of activities that people can mix and match. We have phenomenal records and can easily trace back to the early 1700s. If someone is sure they have Scottish ancestry, we can tell them a lot about their forebears and where their forebears came from so they can walk in the steps of their ancestors.”
Cantlay also noted that London’s The Victoria and Albert Museum is building a striking museum in Dundee.
“Remember what the Guggenheim did in Bilbao? Like all countries, we have cities that have struggled. Dundee was an industrial city, and it is reinventing itself,” said Cantlay. “The new Victoria and Albert will be an amazing addition to the Dundee waterfront and it should open by 2015.”
In Glasgow, the Hydro Arena is currently under construction. When done, the Hydro will seat 12,000 people and will be the largest indoor arena in Scotland, used primarily for live entertainment. According to Cantlay, Glasgow has had to turn down musicians in the past because of limited event space shared with exhibitions.
Meeting the expected spike in tourism to Scotland is the creation of new accommodations as well.
“Despite the recession, we’ve been building many new hotels at a very high standard,” said Cantlay.
Highlights in Edinburgh include the The Caledonian, which is slated to become a Waldorf Astoria in September (following a multimillion restoration), as well as the newly transformed Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa.
To learn more about Scotland, VisitScotland’s ScotsAgents program can help.
“We train travel agents to be ScotsAgents to know, very often, more than I do about Scotland. We bring them over from time to time and they go through various levels of knowledge,” said Cantlay. “We have 500 Americans who have gone through this program, and they are great ambassadors for us.”