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News Article

Robert Burns’ Ode to tourism

Scottish tourism benefits from the birth of its most famous poet, to the tune of £157 million each year. This is the finding of research carried out by Lesley Campbell, an economist with the World Bank, into the effect of Robert Burns on the nation’s economy.

Scottish tourism benefits from the birth of its most famous poet, to the tune of £157 million each year. This is the finding of research carried out by Lesley Campbell, an economist with the World Bank, into the effect of Robert Burns on the nation’s economy.

The biggest single source of the income is Burns-related tourism which nets some £150 million, two-thirds of which goes to Ayrshire, where Burns was born on 25 January 1759, and lived most of his life. Merchandising in souvenir shops and on the internet raises £5.5 million, and Burns Night, the national celebration held on the anniversary of his birth, brings in more cash. Spending in the Burns supper season on haggis, shortbread and other traditional fare equals £1.2 million.

A further £300,000 comes from other spending, such as kilt hire and paying pipers. Surprisingly, the extra whisky consumed at home and abroad only raises £270,000.

A Nimrod crew flew out to the Gulf from RAF Kinloss last weekend with 70 haggis on board so they could enjoy their Burns Night supper away from their Scottish home. They also took two sack of neeps (swede or turnips), but had to leave the whisky behind as they flew to an Arab country.

The BBC commissioned the research for a documentary, "Burns the Brand." David Stenhouse, producer of the programme thinks it comes closer than ever to the true figure of the value of the bard to Scotland’s economy.

He said, "I don’t think you can put a value on the poetry but you can certainly put a value on the money people spend on Burns-related products and the money that tourists who come to Scotland attracted by Burns spend. We are not saying we can reduce his worth to pounds, shillings and pence but a number of people come here, spend a lot of money and Burns the Brand is a huge contributor to the Scottish economy."

Ms Campbell, who carried out the audit, said, "When I looked at the figures initially I was dispassionate. It was a very bald, analytical exercise. When I went down and saw Burns cottage and the museum attached, I was really surprised by how much income this, almost home-made, tourist centre manages to generate. That was the surprise. Not the number itself, but the area that generates it."

Jim Wallace, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, wants 2009 to be declared as Homecoming Year to mark the 250th anniversary of the bard’s birth. Mr Wallace said that Burns was "one of our country’s most recognised figures worldwide and is one of Scotland’s national heroes."

He believes such an event would encourage visitors from all over the world to come to Scotland to explore their roots, and bring a concurrent boost to the economy.

Links:

Robert Burns

World Bank

Article details

  • Date
  • 28 January 2003
  • Subject(s)
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Tourism