The Highlands are looking forward to the American Brave tourism boom returning from April, restrictions permitting.
Adventures By Disney has been running ‘Brave’ trips to Scotland since the movie of the same name appeared in 2012, bringing well-heeled North American families to enjoy an 8- night holiday in Edinburgh, Inverness and the Highlands.
Starting at almost $6,000 a head, some $3.4m worth of Brave tours are booked for next year, with many economic spin-offs for the Highlands.
The tours use the Kingsmills Hotel as their Highland base, where operations director Craig Ewen is looking forward to their return.
He said: “The holidays are aimed at families with a love of Disney and a love of travel.
“They fly into Edinburgh and have a night in Cameron House before travelling up the west coast and visting Skye, then come over to Kingsmills for three nights before heading back to Edinburgh and home.
“They do things like paddle on Loch Ness then gather at the castle for re-enactments, and in some years they even fly by private charter to Stornoway for the day to visit the Callanish stones.
“We lay on dinners, whisky tastings, movie nights- all Disney- for the kids and local entertainers turn up at the hotel in Highland and Jacobite costume.”
The tours use Disney-experienced guides, some of whom live in the Highlands, to accompany the families and be on call 24/7 for whatever they need.
Mr Ewen said: “Other businesses have been involved with the Highland tours over the years, including Bogbain for music, Fort George, the golf club at Fortrose for dolphin spotting at Chanonry Point with dinner afterwards.”
Being at the beck and call of well-heeled North Americans can throw up some interesting challenges.
A phone call at 4pm on Easter Friday one year presented Mr Ewen with one of the most extreme.
“I got a phone call from one of the tour guides on Stornoway as they were waiting for the plane back to Inverness.
“He said one of the couples on the tour had just got engaged and wanted to get married that Sunday and had booked Edinburgh Castle.
“The bride wanted to get a dress sorted that evening in Inverness.
“So after a deep breath I phoned up the bridal shop, and she reminded me it was 4pm on Easter Friday- I told her, don’t worry, you’ll be sorted out.
“We collected the couple off the plane, and took them straight to the bridal shop where the bride stayed up all night with the team sorting the dress to be collected the next day to take down to Edinburgh and get married on the Sunday.”
For many of the families, their Highland adventure is one of several high-end holidays they take throughout the year, so positive feedback is vital.
Mr Ewen shared a letter from Adventures By Disney regional manager Bruce Austin in 2013.
Mr Austin wrote: “Whether it was the welcoming front desk team at the KingsClub Spa, the amazing chap who played the pipes so well and performed the unforgettable Address to a Haggis, the informative whisky-tasting, the excellent food we enjoyed and the ever-efficient banqueting team who took such good care of us, we appreciated the genuine sense of welcome, service and Scottish pride that was readily apparent to our team and our guests.”
This despite the blustery weather that buffeted the group a month- “We have fallen in love with Scotland- the Highlands in particular- and will always return with eager anticipation in our hearts,” Mr Austin said.