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The New Economy

Scotland joins nations' pitch for tourists – with poems

By / January 23, 2009

Edinburgh Prof. G. Ross Roy, doyen of Burns scholars, stands beside the Robert Burns Monument in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Neil Hanna/Newscom


Noticed all those TV ads lately for the Bahamas and Jamaica? It's all part of a push by many countries – from Japan to Namibia – to buoy their economies by bringing tourists to their shores.

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Now, Scotland is entering the fray – not with scenes of tanned models on white beaches (this is Scotland, after all) – but with a poet.

Scotland's favorite son – Robert Burns (“Scots Wha Hae," “Auld Lang Syne”) – was born 250 years ago. So Scotland is calling its expatriates to come back and celebrate with a campaign called “Homecoming Scotland.”

Representing about 6 percent of the world's exports of goods and services, tourism is a significant contributor to economic growth. In Scotland, it is particularly important, representing 1 of every 12 jobs. This year looks particularly iffy for tourism worldwide.

This Sunday, Burns's birthday, kicks off the first of the big events with Burns Night, a celebration of poetry and Scotland's peculiarly named food – haggis and neaps (turnips) and so on.

It's the kind of night that could help brighten Scotland's economic gloom with memories of the days of Auld Lang Syne ("old long since" or "long, long ago").

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