What is film tourism and why does it matter?
20th January, 2023
Film tourism is big- what is it, what impact does it have, and where are the best locations for it? Read on to find out…
- What is film tourism?
- How do movies affect tourism?
- Positive impacts of film tourism
- Negative impacts of film tourism
- Popular film-induced tourism destinations
- Popular film studios for tourists
- Film tourism- further reading
What is film tourism?
Film tourism has been defined by the Scottish Tourist Board as being the business of attracting visitors through the portrayal of the place or a place’s storylines in film, video and television. People have seen a location in a movie and thought, I want to go there. This might be because they thought the destination was particularly beautiful, or because they *really* enjoyed the film and want to experience more of it in some way. It extends to TV shows, too, but film tourism is the name given to this phenomenon.
How do movies affect tourism?
Movies affect tourism by offering another reason for a person to visit a particular location. Someone may have had no interest in visiting New Zealand, for example – until they saw Lord of the Rings and found out it was filmed there, and there are specific locations you can visit as a fan. Likewise, many people are drawn to Vis Island in Croatia because Mama Mia was filmed there.
Another way films affect tourism is by offering more avenues for income to be created. For example, gift shops and paid-for photo spots are becoming common in areas linked to particular films. Some companies are also offering specific guided tours of filming spots across certain cities.
Positive impacts of film tourism
Is this impact positive? In many ways, film tourism does have positive impacts. It works in both directions, too. Some people may be visiting a location anyway, then find out it is a filming location for a particular movie thanks to promotional material, the tours on offer and so on. This could then encourage them to watch the film when they may not have otherwise done so! Things like props, posters and signposting all impact the film industry in this way.
Of course, the biggest positive impact is for the location itself and the surrounding area(s). People are visiting destinations they may not have otherwise been interested in – and this means they are spending money. Whether that be with tour companies, local businesses, hotels and so on, money is flowing in. From this comes better jobs, a better standard of living and a sense of pride in the area.
By promoting themselves as a film location, areas are able to create a positive and fun image. The film is free publicity for them – and it is something that can continue to have an impact as more and more people watch the movie(s) over time. We’re talking years, especially if the film is particularly successful or becomes a cult classic.
It also encourages governments and citizens to work to protect the location, especially environmentally but also in terms of infrastructure. This is not only good for the visiting tourists, of course, but for the locals too!
Negative impacts of film tourism
Are there any negative impacts of film tourism? As with anything, there are negatives which can be explored alongside the many positive impacts. Firstly, destinations may not be prepared for a sudden influx of tourists if this shift happens very quickly. Destinations need time to ensure their roads are able to take a higher number of vehicles, and to make sure there are enough hotel rooms or other places to stay. Tour companies may feel under pressure to create tours, too.
There will likely be more traffic. This means roads could be congested, which is never good for the people who live there. More people also means less privacy, a frustration for many people who live in tourist-y areas. With film tourism, new destinations pop up all the time; this means you may have been living somewhere for decades without it being a popular visitor area and then one day, it suddenly is.
More vehicular traffic is, of course, an environmental impact of tourism. Air quality will decline and emissions will go up – all of this is a huge negative impact in terms of climate change. Extra footfall, more litter, and generally just a disrespect for nature can all have negative impacts on an area.
There is also the copyright issue to take into consideration. Some film franchises and studios will not allow areas to promote themselves with ties to the film or series itself; this means the location is seeing a higher number of visitors without being able to profit in their own (and usually the most beneficial) way.
Popular film-induced tourism destinations
There are so many locations which are popular with movie fans. You can see some major ones below!
James Bond film tourism
James Bond fans flock to Thailand in order to visit Khao Phing Kan. This island featured in the 1974 movie The Man With The Golden Gun. Tour operators were quick to rebrand the island as ‘James Bond Island’ and almost overnight, Thailand became a popular destination for fans of 007.
Game of Thrones film tourism
There are two main locations visited by Game of Thrones fans looking to get a glimpse at where the series was filmed. The first is Northern Ireland, home to 25 filming locations such as Inch Abbey, Ballintoy Harbour and many more – you can do organised tours, or take yourself around for a few days and see how many you can tick off. There are self-guided driving routes available online and you’ll come across plenty of photo ops along the way… The second destination popular with GoT fans is Dubrovnik in beautiful Croatia; again, organised tours are available or you can DIY it. From the setting of King’s Landing Harbour to Blackwater Bay, there are so many GoT filming locations here.
Indiana Jones film tourism
One film franchise with epic scenery has to be Indiana Jones. There are many places you can go to if you want to get in with Indy – the first of which is Cambodia. Head to the stunning Ta Prohm Temple, located at the Angkor Archaeological Park in Angkor Wat. This is where Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was filmed! As a bonus, it also features in Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider. The more you know! Visit as part of an organised tour to see it up close.
Petra in Jordan is another fantastic location for Indiana Jones fans. It featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – and Indy definitely put the location on the map for many people.
Lord of the Rings film tourism
New Zealand is heaven for Lord of the Rings fans. This epic book-turned-film trilogy was filmed here, with its lush greenery and endless mountains providing the perfect backdrop for bringing Middle Earth to life. You can visit the film set itself, now a permanent tourist attraction in Matamata, and you can see Mount Ngauruhoe (which masquerades as Mount Doom) too! Wellington, Canterbury and other areas are also used as filming locations for these epic movies, as well as for The Hobbit film trilogy.
The Beach film tourism
The Beach, a Danny Boyle film from 2000, is set in Thailand. Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh is an absolute paradise – but it has been subject to too much tourism over the years and has only just re-opened to tourists. This is a clear negative impact of tourism, as discussed above. There are now rules and restrictions for visitors, meaning it will hopefully remain open to tourists for years to come in its natural – and beautiful – state.
Gladiator film tourism
If you thought Russell Crowe’s famous 2000 movie Gladiator was filmed in Rome, you’d be wrong. Film tourists hoping to experience a bit of this particular magic need to head to Morocco, Tunisia and Malta. Starting with Morocco, Gladiator fans can visit a city built into the side of a hill: Aït Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the location used for ‘Zucchabar’. Malta, a historic military base, has many forts – and Fort Ricasoli played host to the cast of Gladiator for 19 weeks. Last but not least, Tunisia is also on the list of filming locations for the movie: specifically the El Jem amphitheatre.
Popular film studios for tourists
As well as larger areas such as towns or cities, or historic locations or pretty beaches, film tourism extends to studios. Many film studios are open to visitors for a fee, and you can easily visit and see props, sets and more!
Harry Potter Studios
The ‘Warner Bros. Studio Tour London’ is located in Watford, Hertfordshire – not far from London itself. This epic visitor centre is home to thousands of individual props from the film series, full-size set locations, a gift shop selling everything a Potter fan could want, and so much more. You can visit yourself, or book a guided tour which usually includes transport from London. Experience the magic of the Great Hall, ride in a ‘flying car’ and try a glass of delicious Butterbeer. It really is an experience you’ll never forget, whether you’re interested in how films are actually made or if you’re just a huge HP fan!
Atlas Film Studios
Cinema Studio Atlas, located in Ouarzazate in Morocco, is popular with film fans. This 30,000 sq metre film studio in the desert is open to visitors when there’s no filming on that day; if you want an authentic film studio experience, this is where you need to go! The Mummy (1999), Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Black Hawk Down (2001) and many more have all been filmed here. It hasn’t necessarily been transformed into a tourist experience but if you want to see a real film set with original sets, this is where to go.
Now more famous as a theme park, California-based Universal Studios is in fact a fully working film studio. Here you can visit 13 city blocks across four acres of historic studio lot. It is actually the largest set construction project in studio history! The tour runs for around an hour, and gives you a real behind-the-scenes insight into Hollywood movie production.
Pinewood is another super-famous film studio. Located around 18 miles outside of London, it is not generally open to the public meaning it is less of a film tourism location. However, you *can* visit it as part of a TV audience or pre-arranged group visit.
Film tourism- further reading
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