Film & TV as a Tourism Device

Alexander Glover uncovers how film and tv can inspire tourist desire.

 

The power and influence of film and television are well-known. They can influence the music we listen to (Black Panther), the clothes we wear (Clueless, Peaky Blinders), and even our travel destinations.

Theme parks and attractions such as London’s Wizarding World and the Warner Bros Studio Tour are major drivers of tourism that have stemmed from popular films. However, die-hard fans and those just looking for an excuse to travel come from far and wide to visit shooting locations too.

Recent research suggests that films have a strong influence on tourist decision-making.

Recent research suggests that films have a strong influence on tourist decision-making. The image a viewer garners from a production can have a great impact on tourism to the area, despite films and tv shows depicting fictional representations of areas.

The world’s most filmed-in location is Central Park, New York City, with Hawaii and Las Vegas also being popular spots. However, these locations would receive a lot of tourism even without films and TV shows being filmed there.

On the other hand, many cultural and heritage sites benefit as they acquire specific meaning through the productions. Without these, stately homes such as those featured in Downton Abbey may be indistinguishable from others.

At home, Tourism Ireland has said that up to 35% of visitors from overseas are influenced by film and TV. It makes sense; who doesn’t want a photo outside the house from Father Ted on the fictional Craggy Island? (Actual location: Co. Clare.)

Many films have featured scenes from Ireland’s beautiful countryside. Most of Braveheart’s exterior scenes were shot in Meath and Kildare, Curracloe beach features in both Saving Private Ryan and Brooklyn, and The Wind that Shakes the Barley was filmed in various locations across Cork.

One hypothesis is that the cultural importance of a text leads to it having more sway in attracting tourism.

However, certain films drive a more noticeable increase in tourism. One hypothesis is that the cultural importance of a text leads it to having more sway in attracting tourism. There are three productions which have driven more tourism to Ireland than the rest.

Firstly, two Star Wars films have transformed locations along Ireland’s west coast into scenes from a galaxy far, far away. In The Force Awakens, the historical island of Skellig Michael, off the coast of Co. Kerry, is where Rey tracks down the long-lost Luke Skywalker. In the following film, The Last Jedi, scenes were filmed along the coastlines of Donegal, Clare, Cork, and Kerry.

Tourism Ireland has done an excellent job of capturing this unique opportunity by getting Skywalker himself, Mark Hammill, to talk about Ireland’s beauty. Hammill praises the beautiful vistas and the welcoming Irish people before delivering the money shot: “I would urge anyone planning a vacation to go to Ireland. You’ll never find another place like it… I wish we could have shot the entire film there.” Many local tours have since popped up near filming locations.

“I would urge anyone planning a vacation to go to Ireland.” – Mark Hammill

Secondly, is the ‘most popular TV show of all time’ Game of Thrones. Much of the HBO series is filmed in Northern Ireland and Titanic Studios has been the main studio and post-production facility for all eight seasons. Other external locations such as the Dark Hedges in Co. Antrim (known by fans as ‘Kingsroad’) can be seen all over Instagram, posted by fans of the show.

Like Star Wars, the tourism board has done an excellent job of using the show to drive tourism to the area. Discover Northern Ireland has created a tour around the country that brings visitors to ten intricately carved wooden doors in various pubs. The doors were carved from trees along the Dark Hedges that were felled by Storm Gertrude and each depicts the plot of a season six episode. When tourists take on the tour they are told of all the nearby filming locations.

The final property that has driven considerable tourism to Ireland is Harry Potter. Co. Clare’s Cliffs of Moher feature prominently in the Half-Blood Prince and the cliffs are now Ireland’s most visited natural attraction. Of course, the cliffs in all their glory would draw tourism without Harry Potter, but the wizard has helped to bump the numbers up even further.

Even Trinity College’s Long Room has benefited from Harry Potter. The Old Library gets in excess of half a million visitors a year and many believe it was the inspiration for Hogwarts’ own library. However, it was Star Wars the college had a problem with: in 2002, Trinity almost sued Lucasfilm due to a striking resemblance between ‘the Jedi Archives’ in Attack of the Clones and the Long Room. The Jedi version even had busts of Star Wars characters where Trinity has busts of historical figures such as Shakespeare and Homer.

To date, filming has also taken place on UCD’s campus. However, it is unlikely RTE’s Striking Out or the Pierce Brosnan-led thriller I.T. will draw much tourism to the Belfield campus.

Both travel and film & TV offer those who enjoy them a way to escape reality. The temporary relief from the real world that may be achieved through travel is mimicked when we are transported into film and TV. Marrying both recreational activities makes perfect sense.