Time and time again, it has been shown that when a film production shoots in a particular location it not only creates economic impacts at the time of the production, it can also create significant spin-off economic impacts after the film is released, in the form of Film Tourism – also known “Movie-induced” or “Film-induced” tourism. A specialised / niche tourism product that falls broadly under the umbrella of Cultural Tourism, Film Tourism is generally described as
“tourist visits to a destination or attraction as a result of the destination’s being featured on television, video, or the cinema screen.”
The power of film in portraying a positive destination image to induce tourism visits to a place has been clearly shown in various research (e.g. Tooke & Baker 1996; Iwashita 2006; Kim et al., 2008) but in spite of this, it rarely appears in the tourism strategies of major tourism destinations. The United States Tourism Strategy for instance, doesn’t mention film-inspired tourist AT ALL.
Yet, Film Tourism is nevertheless a growing phenomenon worldwide, driven both by the growth and ubiquity of the entertainment industry and by the increase in international travel. As long ago as 1998, The Annals of Tourism Research noted that locations where a successful film had been shot demonstrated a 54% increase in tourism visits over the following four years. And in a report produced for the New Mexico Film Office in 2009, for instance, Ernst & Young recorded that this kind of additional economic value is around 2.5 to 1, and that for every dollar spent in the state on an actual film production, an additional $2.50 was generated in the tourism sector. Recent examples of Film Tourism successes include
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010)
As the only ‘real’ site for the filming, Antony House in Cornwall, the 18th-century mansion, garden and woodland showcased key elements of the stories of Alice, including imaginative installations set amidst the lush Antony gardens, Alice-inspired events, and extended hours.According to figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva), Burton’s adaptation helped the property to increase its visitor numbers from 25,000 to 100,000 – a 400% increase – in 2010.
ROBIN HOOD (2010)
Visit Britain calculated the overall international promotion value of Robin Hood on the UK at £5 million. In addition to this, Nottingham Castle experienced a 5.5% year on year increase in visits while visitors to Sherwood Forest from outside Nottinghamshire rose by 7%. East Midlands Tourism estimated the economic impact from UK visitors to be over £5 million giving the domestic campaign a Return on Investment of just over 26:1. The “Russell Crowe” effect, could see Nottingham rake in as much as £46million in tourism each year, as a direct result of the film. Jennifer Spencer of Experience Nottinghamshire estimates 1 in 5 tourists make a visit to Nottingham as a direct result of a film.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA (Never, Ever Ending)
Forks, Washington’s tourism industry has grown by 1000 per cent since the first novel was published in 2005, and hotel nights have increased by 1000%. Yet, while the books are set here, not one second of the movies has been shot in its streets (most of the filming has been done to the south in Oregon, or north of the Canadian border in British Columbia). Anyone visiting Forks to experience the Twilight realm will find nothing that is visually recognisable.
Despite any negative stereotypes, the Rabun County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau says more than a quarter-million people flock to the area each year to shoot the same rapids they saw come to life on the big screen. The film helped create the $20m rafting and outdoor sports industry along the Chattooga River. County officials say tourism brings in $42 million a year in revenue, which makes for a huge surplus for a county whose operating budget is about $17 million. These days, the county has an 80% high school graduation rate, and its average home price is more than $300,000.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY
• Six percent of visitors to New Zealand (around 120,000 -150,000 people) cite The Lord of the Rings as being one of the main reasons for visiting New Zealand.
• One per cent of visitors – 11200 people – said that the Lord of the Rings was their main or only reason for visiting.
• This one per cent related to approximately NZ$32.8m in spend
• 63,200 visitors participated in a Lord of the Rings activity while here.
• 9,988 international tourists did a group tour for LOTRs fans
• 20,251 international tourists did an organised tour that included a LOTR site
• 29,233 international tourists visited a LOTR site independently
Since 2004, an average 47,000 international visitors each year have visited a film location.
Since the first film’s release, about 266,000 people have visited the half-ruined Hobbiton, according to Tourism New Zealand, with a majority from abroad.
Film London, the UK capital’s screen agency, reported that films and television programmes depicting the UK are responsible for attracting about 1 in 10 overseas tourists, who spend around £1.8 billion a year – and they estimate that approximately 28 million visitors visit Britain each year after viewing the country on the screen . Visit Britain even suggests that films could be influencing the expectations of up to 40% of the international visitors coming to the UK, and Film production is therefore recognized generally as a major contributor to the UK brand (Roesch 2009, 222).
Internationally, these kinds of figures are noted again and again, translating to huge numbers of travellers. 2012’s global benchmarking survey TRAVELSAT© Competitive Index noted that around 40 million international tourists chose their destination mostly because they saw a film shot in the country. On average – and depending on the destination and market – the report suggests that up to 10 visitors in every 100 would choose a destination mostly thanks to movies.
The TRAVELSAT© survey additionally reports that this channel is particularly useful at attracting first time visitors, young travellers and short stay / city breakers. Furthermore, it notes that BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) markets tend to be especially sensitive to this medium, a suggestion that is supported by a recent study from KResearch , (Kasikorn Bank) which explicitly cited the widespread exposure provided by the Chinese film Lost in Thailand as a reason for increased Chinese interest in travel to Thailand – travel that will generate a 44.4% increase in tourism turnover and investment of as much as 29.6 billion of Thai baht in 2013.
On a commercial level, film tourism is already being commercially exploited by film-themed Entertainment Parks such as Disney Land and Universal Studios Theme Parks. By capturing people’s interest, engagement and immersion in the movies, combined 2011 revenue at NBCUniversal’s theme-parks business (including licensing fees from overseas parks in Japan and Singapore) rose 24% to $2 billion. At a national, regional and city level, Film Tourism is therefore already being formally explored and exploited by places as diverse as New Zealand (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit), Taiwan (Life of Pi), the United Kingdom (Bond, Harry Potter) and the states of Washington (Twilight series) and North Carolina (Hunger Games).
As Film Commissions undertake efforts to prove the value of the Film Sector to their respective governments and communities, there is therefore a growing recognition of, and interest in, the opportunities presented by Film Tourism. However, although films can have a significant impact on tourist destination choice, film-induced tourism is complex and dynamic and somewhat misunderstood. Successful film tourism growth depends on a number of factors – many of them entirely unscientific and, until now, largely beyond the control of either Film Commissions or Destination Marketing Organizations (Hudson & Ritchie, 2006b). In these pages, we’ll therefore try to unpack the Film Tourism product, and identify ways to bring those “uncontrollable” elements within the management of Film and Tourism bodies.