In his latest blog, VisitScotland Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead looks at what new global movement 'Scotland is Now' means for Scotland.
The word "now" has many meanings.
It is a world of immediacy, driven by a 24-hour news cycle, the internet and, of course, social media. It is living in the moment – basking in the summer sun on Arthur's Seat whilst admiring the Edinburgh city-scape below, or taking that journey to a far-flung part of the country to escape from it all.
A third definition is that of "fashionable" and, in that sense, Scotland is "now".
But don't just take my word for it – look to the accolades to its name in the past year. The terms "friendliest city", "happiest place", "most desirable" and "best holiday destination" are synonymous with Scotland and its many towns, cities and landscapes.
Indeed, our magnificent mountains, sumptuous beaches, luscious forests and majestic lochs led Rough Guide readers to declare it as "the most beautiful country in the world".
While we should applaud and celebrate these fine achievements, delivered both by nature and design, we do so with a hint of caution. Fashions come and go. What is hot once is not always so. And in this ever-changing world, the ability to adapt is as important as ever. Scotland, however, is anything but a fad.
Our hugely successful, and first-ever, global campaign, Spirit of Scotland, revealed to the world the intangible feeling you get as part of the Scottish experience.
Launched in the wake of Homecoming Scotland, the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and Glasgow 2014 – considered by the international community as the "best Games ever" – we sought to transform visitors and residents alike into ambassadors for Scotland.
The results speak for themselves: 1,000 uses of the hashtag #ScotSpirit every day, more than 66 million views of our 15 Spirit of Scotland cinematic shorts and £660 million of potential new business delivered through our content marketing on visitscotland.com.
Now is the time to capitalise on that success by embracing not just those who want to visit or invest in Scotland but also those who would like to live, work and study here.
And what a time it is to do so. Since 2005 Scotland has seen a 17% increase in visitor numbers, while for a sixth year in a row visits to our attractions are outstripping the rest of the UK.
Set-jetting, where film fans seek out the destinations on-screen, continues to have an effect in Scotland, particularly on the back of the time-hopping romantic TV series, Outlander. Meanwhile, on the big screen, huge film franchises have come to our shores, none more-so than the Marvel Cinematic Universe choosing to shoot Avengers: Infinity War in Edinburgh.
Scotland is home to over 50,000 students from outside the UK and is consistently recognised as the most attractive place in the UK, outside London, for foreign direct investment. In the last four years, almost 16,000 new jobs have been created through international businesses locating here.
Scotland's five main airports have direct international flights that connect millions of passengers with 150 destinations worldwide and most recently we saw the launch of the first-ever direct air service from China.
However, just as air connectivity increases, so the world shrinks, and competition to attract visitors becomes fiercer – and more lucrative.
Countries are stepping up their game. They all want a piece of the action, from the high-spend tourists to industry professionals, and of course, international business investment.
In the Southern Hemisphere, Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Pure New Zealand marketing campaign remains strong, almost 20 years after its launch in 1999. It was the first time New Zealand had one message in all of its tourism markets around the world and created a brand for the country.
Our Spirit of Scotland campaign itself sought to harness a nation behind tourism and, building on that success, the time is right to create an all-encompassing brand for Scotland that incorporates our collective talent, skills and investment.
Scotland is Now, is that brand. Two-years in the making, it isn't a big-spend marketing initiative – it's about working smarter and capitalising on networks and new technology. It's about collaboration and sharing Scotland's story through the people who benefit from all it has to offer. See our people films like the one below:
By working in partnership with the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Universities Scotland, we are positioning Scotland as a bold country, rich in history and heritage but forging forward in a way that is progressive, pioneering and inclusive.
It is creating one clear overarching message about Scotland to sell to the world – complimented by a single digital platform, scotland.org and supported by a unique and growing online network of brand Scotland friends and ambassadors.
Influential people across multiple channels who can authentically share Scotland's story – for, as with our Spirit of Scotland campaign, it is our people that are our strongest ambassadors, be they visitors, entrepreneurs or students.
So while the word "now" continues to mean immediacy, the moment and fashionable.
Now, so does Scotland.