VisitScotland finally backs Trainspotting under 'dark tourism' drive

VisitScotland has given its backing for Trainspotting just weeks ahead of the release of the sequel.
VisitScotland has given its backing for Trainspotting just weeks ahead of the release of the sequel.
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Its depictions of drug addiction, crime and poverty are not the most likely subjects to inspire a national tourism campaign.

But more than two decades after Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting took the literary world by storm it is finally being embraced by VisitScotland.

Despite focusing on a group of heroin addicts, it has hailed the original film adaptation of Welsh’s book as a “cultural phenomenon” and said it wanted to encourage businesses to “jump on the Trainspotting bandwagon.”

It also cites another big-screen adaptation of a Welsh novel, Filth, which focuses on the downfall of a corrupt detective, as an example of “cultural noir” which could generate spin-offs for the industry.

VisitScotland says there is increasing evidence of an interest in 'dark tourism' which can go all the way back to historic battles like Bannockburn and Culloden.

But the Scottish Government agency is encouraging businesses to use Welsh’s stories and characters to help visitors “understand more about the destination.”

It also wants the industry to “capitalise” on the success of authors like Welsh who it says captures key Scottish character traits such as pessimism, dourness and humour based around a grim past.

Its backing for Trainspotting and its impending sequel, which will be released next month, has emerged months after Edinburgh’s film agency produce a new guide to the city based on its depiction in "dark and gritty" dramas.

The nation’s dark underbelly has been identified as a major new “selling point” for the industry in 2017 and 2018 in VisitScotland’s latest advice bulletin on consumers trends.

It says there is increasing evidence that Scotland’s “dark history” is now one of the main drivers of interest from international visitors thanks to the success of hit TV shows like Outlander, which features graphic scenes of violence, rape and torture.

Tourism operators, attractions and organisations are being urged to adapt over the next year to help them grapple with the impact of “seismic” events like the EU referendum result, the migrant crisis and the American presidential election.

In his latest report for the industry, Chris Greenwood, VisitScotland’s senior tourism insight manager, said: “No matter how you view it, Scotland’s dark history is one of the main drivers of interest for international visitors.

“From William Wallace’s battles at Stirling and Falkirk, Robert the Bruce and the Battle of Bannockburn, or even Culloden, Scotland’s tourism product is based in part on these events, and consumers are very attracted to our history.

“It is becoming evident that consumers are becoming more and more interested in the past, with shows such as Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones and Outlander. The attraction of the past is driving consumers to investigate ‘dark’ tourism further. Similar to this, we have seen a rise in interest of Scottish film and literature in recent years.

“Works by authors such as Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin and Iain Banks, all renowned internationally, highlight Scottish personalities and personas through the medium of literature, which could be an opportunity for tourism businesses to capitalise on. As our humour is based around our dark past and sense of pessimism, why can’t this be a unique selling point for tourism businesses to capitalise on?

“They can immerse their consumers in Scottish culture, telling stories of local folklore, and being proud of their Scottish heritage. The rise in popularity of ‘Outlander’ in particular has been a catalyst for increased visitor numbers to sites such as Glencoe, further highlighting the opportunity for tourism businesses.

“Tourism businesses should be open and proud of their local heritage and history, despite dark events in its history. Ultimately, there is an appetite from consumers to understand more about the destination.”

Jenni Steele, film marketing manager at VisitScotland, said: “The original Trainspotting was a cultural phenomenon, with posters adorning students’ bedroom walls up and down the country and famous lines becoming part of popular culture.

“There will undoubtedly be a huge amount of interest in Danny Boyle’s long-awaited sequel, with fans keen to visit locations associated with the movie.

“Like Ian Rankin, Irvine Welsh explores a darker, grittier side of the Scottish psyche and the release of Trainspotting 2 will give even more businesses the chance to tap into the ‘cultural noir’ tourism trend and jump on the Trainspotting bandwagon.”

Edinburgh’s crime drama guide, which was published in August, offers potential visitors the chance to “discover the dark and gritty world” that has been depicted on screen since the 1990s, including Ian Rankin’s Rebus and Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories, as well as recent BBC dramas The Secret Agent and One of Us.

Rosie Ellison, manager of Film Edinburgh, said: “Around 20 per cent of the dramas that shoot in the Edinburgh city region are crime dramas

“Given the popularity of this genre, it’s no wonder that our ‘crime drama capital’ guide has been a hit with visitors to the city.”