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Article published 11/10/2023

Our Meet the Team series is a monthly spotlight on staff across VisitScotland and EventScotland. In this feature, hear from our Film and Creative Industries Manager, Jenni Steele, and learn more about her role. 

Tell us a bit about yourself

After studying Business Studies with Languages at Napier University, my first job was in the Edinburgh Tourist Information Centre, helping visitors plan their adventures around Scotland. That was to be the start of my love for Scottish tourism and my chosen career.

I feel very lucky to have had such a wide range of roles which have all had my favourite things at their heart – heritage, arts, culture and Scotland’s scenery. To be able to work with the subjects you are passionate about and create opportunities to share them with others is very rewarding.

Most of my career has been in tourism PR, beginning with promoting Edinburgh & The Lothians to journalists and travel writers and working on events like the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay;  I’ve also done PR for culture and leisure projects as part of the City of Edinburgh Council’s media team. Here I got to promote the Council’s fantastic parks, gardens and art collections, and work on major exhibitions such as The Art of Star Wars with Lucas Film.

Moving to VisitScotland, I spent a number of years in the Consumer PR team as European PR Manager, followed by a move to lead our Industry Communications team. It was in the early days of my PR role, when I managed our first major film tourism campaign with Sony Pictures International around The Da Vinci Code. It was certainly an eye opener into the world of global movie promotion. I had no idea then that this campaign would, some years later, lead to my current role!

Outside work, I love nature, wildlife and exploring Scotland. I can often be found foraging about on a beach or in a highland glen with our gorgeous border collie.

Jenni Steele in the Outer Hebrides

What's your current role at VisitScotland?

I’m Film & Creative Industries Manager – a role that developed from the growing number of opportunities between the creative and tourism sectors. My job mainly focuses on developing opportunities within film, tv and literary tourism and how we can maximise the opportunities these sectors bring for our own campaigns as well as creating growth potential for our regions, stakeholders and tourism partners.

My work is extremely varied and never, ever dull! I work with so many different people and organisations from film distributors and TV broadcasters to film publicists, location offices, national agencies and publishers.

As well as developing relationships with major distributors like Disney Pixar, Sony, StudioCanal and Netflix (which has a positive corporate benefit), I make sure the productions and projects we work on promote Scotland in the best light. I also ensure that they'll reach our target audiences, in line with our marketing strategies. There are many great productions shot in Scotland, but we recognise not all of them will be drivers for tourism. My job is to apply certain criteria and consider the scale of opportunity for a tourism partnership.

Filming The Road Dance on the Isle of Lewis

Filming The Road Dance on the Isle of Lewis

Screen tourism is really important for Scotland. Why do you think our nation resonates so well with audiences across the world through film and television?

Scotland looks stunning on screen, even in bad weather! It’s full of drama and intrigue which film makers love. Seeing Scotland on the big screen really is an advert budgets couldn’t buy. We know our landscapes and history inspire people to visit Scotland, so when they see the likes of Outlander, The Crown or Harry Potter on a cinema or TV screen along with great actors and a powerful soundtrack, it really has an impact on a viewer, who we then hope will be inspired to become a visitor.

With the huge increase in production in Scotland recently, combined with the number of digital platforms and global film and TV fans within our reach,  we’ve seen interest in screen tourism grow rapidly. A study by Screen Scotland estimated the value of screen tourism to Scotland at £65 million in 2019.  That’s had a positive impact for tourism businesses too, with many more film related products now on offer, such as location tours, events and bespoke experiences for fans to enjoy.

The Outlander TV series has certainly had a positive impact on tourism in Scotland. With fans around the world captivated by clans, romance and history, they are inspired to visit the locations they see on screen – and also explore the real Scotland, beyond the storylines. Several heritage attractions featured in the series have seen a huge increase in visitor numbers since the series started.

Jenni Steele with James Cosmo at Film Guide Launch

Jenni and actor James Cosmo at the launch of VisitScotland’s Set in Scotland film guide

How can businesses get involved and make the most of the opportunities screen tourism brings?

Whether a business has had a production film at their property, or they are close to a location featured in a film or TV series, there are lots of ways to make the most of screen tourism.  That can range from setting up tours to locations, offering themed activities or running bespoke events linked to a popular film or tv show.

There’s lots of research and background on VisitScotland.org about screen tourism and what fans are looking for  – and plenty examples on our film pages of visitscotland.com of how we have worked with movies and TV shows to create trails, itineraries and other content to inspire our visitors.  Have a look for some inspiration, or link to it from your own site, if this is a topic your customers might enjoy.

Each production will create a different set of opportunities, so there’s no set rule on what you can do –  it’s all about thinking creatively. Just one thing to note: remember that all films and TV shows have strict licensing rules around use of imagery and intellectual property, so check before carrying out any promotional activity. This can be a tricky area to work around so we’re always happy to help with any queries – please just get in touch.

Read our insights on film, TV and literature tourism in Scotland

Do you have a favourite place in Scotland that you love to visit, or where’s next on your Scotland bucket-list?

It’s hard to pick just one! I’ve always loved Arran since I was little, as we went there a lot as a family, but I’d say my very favourite place is the north-west around Coigach and Assynt. It’s perfect for completely switching off, surrounded by stunning mountains, with only the sounds of the sea and nature around you  - total bliss!

 

Jenni Steele's Border Collie, Corrie
Jenni's gorgeous border collie enjoying some stunning Scottish views

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