One of the unintended consequences of the boom in global production is a corresponding surge in film and TV tourism.
A spate of research in recent years has shown that viewers of popular films and TV shows are increasingly deciding to visit their locations, or to make a trip to the country where they were made.
Figures published last year by Northern Ireland’s tourism board, Tourism NI, suggested that 350,000 people come to the British province every year because of HBO production “Game of Thrones” – or one in six leisure visitors.
Meanwhile, the U.K.’s tourism body, VisitBritain, found that more than two million visitors to the country make a trip to film, TV, music or literary locations.
Warner Bros.’s The Making of Harry Potter studio tour in Leavesden receives more than 6,000 visitors a day at peak times.
A 2018 report by Olsberg SPI’s calculated that non-U.K. tourists coming to the U.K. spent an estimated £598 million ($781 million) in film-related screen tourism in 2016, generating 13,440 full-time equivalent jobs. They were drawn in particular by films with a strong sense of place and culture, such as “Harry Potter,” “Paddington” and “Kingsman.”
For television, the Olsberg SPI research showed that dramas such as “The Crown,” “Outlander,” “Poldark” and “Game of Thrones” have been a key driver for attracting inbound tourists who spent an estimated £266 million ($348 million) in TV-related screen tourism in the U.K., creating 5,990 full-time equivalent jobs.
Last November, Film London and VisitBritain hosted a conference on the subject of screen tourism, Seen on Screen.
Adrian Wootton, CEO of Film London and the British Film Commission, says that 10-15 years ago people thought there might be a correlation between film and tourism, but that now it is an accepted fact.
He says tourism bodies are now so convinced of the link that they run advertising campaigns around the release of films. VisitBritain, for example, ran a global campaign around the launch of “Paddington 2” to promote the country to international fans.
Hit dramas can also help countries change their image. Wootton says that “Game of Thrones” has helped Northern Ireland rebrand itself away from its historical image around The Troubles, the name given to the region’s sectarian conflicts during the late 20th century, to a location that can attract visitors who are keen to tap into Irish history and visit the province’s coasts, castles and landscape.
One of the speakers at the Seen on Screen conference was Michael Paul, managing partner of Austrian TV and film consultancy Paul und Collegen Consulting. The company last year produced a study on film and tourism in Austria, and cited the impact of 2017 Bollywood movie “Tiger Zinder Hai.” The action thriller filmed a 22 minute sequence in Austria, and contributed to a 76% growth in overnight stays by Indian tourists in the Tyrol region of the country.
Wootton says that even productions that don’t portray locations in a positive light can spark a surge in tourism. He cited TV series “Broadchurch,” which focuses on the murder of a child in a seemingly idyllic Dorset coastal town, as leading to major increase in visitors to the area.
He added that hit films also attract tourists for many years afterwards, citing 1999 romantic comedy “Notting Hill.” “People in Notting Hill will tell you that visitors will still seek out the blue door in the film after all this time.”
Paul und Collegen, meanwhile, says that 1965 hit “The Sound of Music” has been a tourism magnet for more than 60 years, attracting visitors to the locations in the film in the city of Salzburg and upper Austria.