Can terrorism promote tourism? If the terrorism is on TV, the answer is yes.
The revived Fox series “24: Live Another Day” is shooting all 12 of its episodes in London through June, and although the Kiefer Sutherland starrer portrays the British capital as a city in the grips of terrorists, Adrian Wootton, CEO of government promo org Film London, is optimistic that the show will encourage more tourists to visit
“There are going to be a lot of iconic locations because they really want to get that distinct authenticity into the production,” Wootton enthuses. “For us, that’s going to be a fantastic piece of marketing when it starts airing on the Fox Network.”
Film London’s primary mission is to stimulate production. It works hand in hand with Visit Britain and other national and local tourist orgs, as well as the studios, to promote film and TV-related tourism — and tourism happens to be the U.K.’s fifth-largest industry, with outside visitors contributing £21 billion ($35 billion) to the economy in 2013, per a recent study by Deloitte and Oxford Economics.
A 2007 study by Oxford U. found that the film industry contributed $3 billion to U.K. tourism the previous year, estimating that one in 10 of all visitors were attracted by films depicting the country, such as “Casino Royale” and “The Da Vinci Code.” Prior to being featured as the title residence in PBS’ “Downton Abbey,” Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England, was visited by 1,200 during its busiest days. Following the U.K. premiere of the series’ second season in 2011, the castle had 4,000 visitors in a single afternoon.
Statistics like these are a useful tool when lobbying a government to institute or improve an incentive, and when incentives are sweetened, they attract more productions, which in turn attract even more tourism.
“Tourism is the gift that keeps on giving,” says Gregg Anderson, general manager for the Americas and Europe at Tourism New Zealand, who will be on a film tourism panel at the AFCI Locations Show this month.
According to film tourism consultant Stefan Roesch, author of the book “The Experiences of Film Location Tourists,” there are three levels of film and TV tourists. Level one includes those who make a special trip because they’re hardcore fans. The second group consists of the casual fan who visits a location or takes a guided tour as part of a larger holiday experience. Then there are those who simply have a general curiosity about where films and TV shows are made.
“We had people who hadn’t read the books and hadn’t seen the films, but still paid hundreds of dollars for ‘Lord of the Rings’ day tours,” says Roesch, who’ll also be on the AFCI panel.
Although “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy has brought visitors to New Zealand, Anderson believes director Peter Jackson’s other J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation, “The Hobbit,” which is only two films into a planned trilogy, has already had a greater effect on tourism. He says that in the 12 months after the first installment was released, visitor arrivals increased by about 13%.
Anderson says the difference was due to the increased involvement of Warner Bros. “When we worked with New Line (the studio behind the first trilogy), it was on small initiatives,” he says. With Warner Bros. “it was sitting down in a strategic partnership and understanding what properties we could use, how we could leverage it.”
That included incorporating the catchphrase “New Zealand 100% Middle-Earth” into a destination campaign, accompanied by maps and illustrations created by a storyboard artist from Jackson’s Weta Workshop. At the same time, Jackson partnered with the owners of the farm that served as the setting for the village of Hobbiton and turned it into a permanent tourist attraction, pictured above, complete with a working pub, the Green Dragon Inn.
But the biggest boost may have come from Warner Bros. holding the world premiere of the first “Hobbit” film in Wellington, New Zealand, where Jackson is headquartered. “When the media junket happened, the actors didn’t talk about to playing Frodo or other Hobbits” Anderson recalls. “They talked about how they’d really like to move to New Zealand. It was just huge.”