Outlander creator to be honoured at tourism Oscars

Outlander author Diana Gabaldon will be honoured at the Scottish tourism ‘Oscars’ tonight (Thursday), as a new VisitScotland research paper reveals the extent of the effect her creation has had on Scottish tourism.

The American writer will receive a special “International Contribution to Scottish Tourism” award from VisitScotland at the Scottish Thistle Awards, the industry’s premier awards ceremony, to mark the 50th anniversary of the national tourism organisation.

The Outlander Effect & Tourism paper, published today by the tourism body’s Insight team, reveals that attractions used in the popular television adaptation of her famous novels have seen visitor numbers soar by 67% since 2013, from 887,000 to 1.5 million.

Screen tourism, or set-jetting, whereby viewers visit their favourite on-screen location, is a growing trend in Scotland and nowhere is it better seen than in the effect on Outlander filming locations.

Doune Castle which doubles as Castle Leoch in the popular TV series has seen the largest surge in visitor numbers – 226.5% in the last five years, from 38,081 to 124,341 – followed by Blackness Castle (181.7%), which features as Black Jack Randall’s headquarters, and Glasgow Cathedral (66.8%), which played a French hospital.

As part of the Insight paper, all Scottish visitor attractions were surveyed to discover how screen tourism and Outlander has impacted on their business.

Almost all respondents considered screen tourism as positive for the industry and a fifth of attractions located adjacent to filming locations said they saw an increase in visitors.

The findings also reveal that the dedicated Outlander page on visitscotland.com was the fifth most popular VisitScotland webpage in the time between the broadcast of Season Three and Season Four of the TV series – with Scotland’s standing stones, castles and ancestry among the most popular link clicks.

The romantic adventures of English World War II combat nurse Claire Randall, who travels back in time to 18th century Scotland where she meets and falls in love with Scottish Highlander Jamie Fraser (played by Sam Heughan – click HERE to read our exclusive interview), were introduced to readers in 1991. A further seven novels and nine spin-off books have been published in 43 countries and in 39 languages, selling more than 35 million printed copies worldwide.

In 2014, Outlander was adapted for television by Sony Pictures and film production continues to be based in Scotland, with many Scottish locations doubling as France, the Caribbean and North America.

The honorary award is one of a series of activities taking place this year to recognise the Development of Tourism Act which came into force in 1969 and formed the basis for an official Scottish Tourist Board, and the origins of VisitScotland.

Sam Heughan with Caitriona Balfe in Outlander (Photo: Starz)

Diana said: ‘I’m deeply honoured, and so pleased, at being given the Thistle Award. To be quite honest, I chose Scotland as the setting for my first novel because of a man in a kilt, but upon looking into things more deeply, was enchanted to discover a country and a people like no other, whose traditions and history are as strikingly beautiful as its landscapes.’

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: ‘The impact of Outlander on Scotland has been truly extraordinary. It has been amazing to see the global reaction to Diana Gabaldon’s stories of adventure, romance and Scottish history – and the subsequent television adaptation – and seeing it translate into visitor growth for Scotland.

‘Screen tourism continues to be a growing trend, however it is Outlander which has been the story in recent times, inspiring millions of visitors, from the USA to Europe and even China, to embark on their own Scottish adventure.

‘Over 200 years ago Sir Walter Scott published his first historical novel, Waverley, which inspired visitors and helped create the modern tourism industry. It seems only fitting that during our golden anniversary, when we celebrate the major milestones of Scottish tourism over the last 50 years, we recognise another Jacobean tale and its author for inspiring many more.’

iona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said: ‘Scotland’s wonderful landscapes, rich history and culture continue to captivate visitors from home and abroad, making tourism one of our most important industries.

‘The Scottish Thistle Awards celebrates quality, innovation and excellence across this industry, and it’s a pleasure to join with VisitScotland in its 50th year to recognise those who make such a vital contribution to our visitor economy.’

Rebecca Brooks, chair of the Scottish Thistle Awards, said: ‘The Scottish Thistle Awards is Scotland’s premier awards for the industry and recognises those individuals and businesses who have made a huge impact on Scottish tourism. This year, as VisitScotland marks its 50th anniversary, we are delighted to honour Diana Gabaldon for the role she has played in contributing to Scotland’s growing tourism sector.’

Diana Gabaldon will also be appearing at Hopetoun House on Friday (15 March) for an “in conversation” event with James Crawford, author and chair of Publishing Scotland.

The event is organised by national tourism body, VisitScotland and book publishing industry body, Publishing Scotland.

For more information about the Scottish Thistle Awards visit: https://www.scottishthistleawards.co.uk/

For more Outlander-inspired adventures in Scotland visit: www.visitscotland.com/outlander