By Jenni Steele

IT’S easy to forget when watching the latest blockbuster or enjoying a cult classic that screen tourism is a very real and valuable trend in Scotland.

Over the decades, the country’s screen appearances have inspired visitors from across the world to discover featured locations in real life.

Daniel Craig’s journey in his iconic Aston Martin to his family home near Glencoe marked 2012 as a high point for screen tourism in Scotland.

That same year Disney gave us its first Scottish princess in the Pixar production, Brave, with Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis and Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire drawn upon by animators.

And then there was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, shot high above Loch Bealach Culaidh; the big budget adaptation of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas showing Glasgow, Edinburgh and Clackmannanshire Bridge in various guises and decades; and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, with the Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye the starting point for that Alien adventure.

It’s amazing to think that Scotland featured in four of the top 17 highest-grossing films at the worldwide box office that year.

In the 10 years since, global film franchises have continued to use Scotland – see Fast & Furious and Marvel’s Avengers – in addition to the historical double-header of Outlaw King and Mary Queen of Scots.

What it amounts to is a growing breadth and depth of opportunities to reach international markets.

Screen Scotland recently produced a report which valued screen tourism at £55 million to the Scottish economy, based on visitors – so-called set-jetters – engaging in screen tourism activities, like visiting a location from a TV series or film.

Historical TV drama Outlander grabs the headlines for its enthusiastic fans – mostly from North America but also Germany and France – who visit attractions linked to the series.

With many historical sites used as filming locations, the increase in visits has helped to support the conservation of Scotland’s heritage. While there have been challenges, the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund has helped support improved facilities.

VisitScotland continues to encourage visitors to explore responsibly. Our new-look film guide, Set in Scotland, is part of that activity to extend the benefits of screen tourism beyond the "hot spots" and provide a resource for industry to develop new experiences.

But screen tourism goes further than visiting a film set.

Films engage audiences in a way that traditional forms of marketing don’t and have a longevity that lasts beyond the box-office takings.

In a similar vein to in-film product placement, a country appearing on-screen boosts the destination’s brand.

In the foreword of Set in Scotland, acting legend James Cosmo talks of the connection he has witnessed between visitors and films such as Highlander and Braveheart.

Those are visitors who have been influenced to travel to Scotland after seeing the country’s sights, sounds, people and places on screen.

Film has that power to connect with people across the world.

Jenni Steele is Film and Creative Industries Manager at VisitScotland