As Scotland gears up for its annual swell of visitors during the festival season, the world also awaits the summer release of Disney/Pixar's latest 3D animated film, Brave. Set in medieval Scotland, Bravefeatures a fiery red-headed heroine, tons of tartan and highland scenery galore.
And, although thankfully, there shouldn't be too much cringing, as most of the voice actors are Scottish, it does make me think about the role history, heritage and technology play in cultural tourism.
The legendary Disney/Pixar digital duo have also struck a unique £7 million entertainment/tourism collaboration with VisitScotland, said to be the first of its kind, to create a global digital and marketing campaign for Brave. With expectations of the film generating a £140 million spin-off legacy for Scotland's economy, Disney is even offering a full Scottish adventure package, with a packed itinerary taking in the best historic locations - it's no wonder visitors think they can see Scotland in just a couple of days! While this is an exciting cross-sector partnership with mass potential, the film location tour is a fairly traditional and pedestrian product, which is always limited to those who can afford to physically visit.
Cross-sector collaboration is of course a powerful tool: aligning ambitions to achieve a shared vision; pooling and increasing skills and expertise; and attracting new audiences/visitors/customers or investors for synergistic benefits - all made easier by digital sharing tools (what did we do before Dropbox, Skype and the others were invented?).
But what impact do collaborations have during the critical early R&D stage when developing a new cultural product, in assessing market opportunity, viability and injecting new digital thinking into the mix?
We recently announced six Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture, Scotland investment awardees supporting partnerships between arts/culture and digital sectors. Here are two supported projects with ambitions of meeting international demand and using technology as a solution to tackle current tourism challenges.
The National Piping Centre host bagpiping events and provide face-to-face piping tuition for students of all levels and abilities. They realise there is an untapped international market for traditional high-quality bagpiping. NPC are working with Glasgow-based digital collective, Yellow Brick House, to explore the feasibility of using webinar technology and live streaming to provide digital tuition and events (which attract some 40,000 visitors to Glasgow for the week-long festival each year). The findings from this project will be interesting for the sector as this model is highly replicable by other arts and cultural providers, particularly traditional music educators.
An Iodhlann is a historical centre on the west coast Isle of Tiree. With only 750 residents on the island swelling to 15,000 during summer, they have a well preserved historic archive, where crofting and heritage are intimately tied-in. The island suffers from poor mobile coverage meaning tourists can't readily access internet-related content, although they can access wifi in their B&Bs during their stay. Also, the tourist/resident ratio is 20:1, so it can prove difficult to have all historic sites manned. An Iodhlann will combat these challenges by offering content to visitors on the ground, through a combination of a downloadable mobile app when visitors arrive on the island and a website to allow pre-trip planning and post-trip reminiscence, to lengthen the visitor experience. This project has great applicability for other locations across the world that suffer similar connectivity/population swell challenges.
Both of these projects have great potential to create meaningful relationships with new audiences, enhance their user experience and generate valuable new revenue streams. Exploring how we 'export' Scotland's cultural heritage through digital tourism and technology is still an area for great discovery and we are excited to be working with these cultural explorers to navigate this fairly unchartered territory.
A digital bon voyage...