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The rise of film-induced tourism and its impact on local businesses

In 2001, something happened to New Zealand's tourism industry that changed it forever. The launch of the Lord of the Rings film series catapulted picturesque New Zealand into the tourism stratosphere, as fans of the phenomenally popular franchise booked trips to the mystical lands of Tolkien's heroes.
lailamjimenez via  - Hobbiton, New Zealand
lailamjimenez via pixabay - Hobbiton, New Zealand

The Lord of the Rings’ impact on New Zealand - and, consequently, its businesses - is perhaps the leading example of the rise of film tourism. Those films revealed New Zealand as a land of wonder, with fans of the films raring to get there and experience its staggering beauty for themselves.

Today, New Zealand has its own fully-fledged set of organisations - Tourism New Zealand, the New Zealand Film Commission and Film New Zealand - that actively work to promote New Zealand as a travel destination for fans of films made there, including the Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Piano to name just a few.

Tourism New Zealand has itself stated “research shows us that film can influence travel choices”, noting that in New Zealand, revenues from film production rose to a massive $3.155b in 2014 - from only $7m in 2013.

A source of travel inspiration

Today, when groups of friends get together and decide where to go on holiday, it’s not unusual for them to google their favourite film locations and make a choice based on that - trust me, I’ve seen this happen! IMDB even has an advanced search function that allows you to find movies based on where they were filmed.

As evidenced by this interactive map from Orbitz, film-inspired holidays are growing in popularity. From the New York of Ghostbusters to the Paris of, well, Midnight in Paris, the locations, and settings of films can act as a real source of travel inspiration.

Importantly, it not only means that travellers have a fantastic holiday, immersed in the world of their favourite flicks, but research into film tourism - still a relatively new trend - has begun to directly link it to positive benefits for local businesses too. Research by Kelly Blower from the University of Wolverhampton in the UK, has demonstrated that film tourism helps create new jobs in filming locations, generate more revenue for its economy and raise awareness of the location around the world.

A boon for businesses

“Another prominent positive impact is that, overall, it is highly likely that it would also improve the business aspects such as generating more new trade for the local area and the local people,” she stated.

Other research also illustrates that holidaymakers factor in films when they choose to book a holiday. A study by Jocelyn Fu suggests that eight in 10 Britons get their holiday destination ideas from films. Keen to capitalise on the trend, governments and tourism organisations around the world are now offering production incentives to encourage film studios to film in their countries.

New Zealand, for example, launched a Screen Production Grant which gives international productions a 20% baseline grant. A further 5% is available for those that demonstrate “wider economic benefits” to New Zealand.

There is a similar incentive scheme in Florida, with the Sunshine State estimating that the incentive has an $5.60 to $20.50 return in state taxes for every $1 of incentive issued. Research by Film Florida also found that 19.5% of all visitors to Florida said viewing a movie or television series filmed there contributed to their decision to visit the state. “The program attracts a significant amount of entertainment projects and, in turn, Florida gains direct and indirect jobs, tax revenue and film-induced tourism dollars from the film and entertainment industry,” said Leah Sokolowsky, president of Film Florida.

The message is clear: opening up your country to filmmakers seeking to shoot their blockbuster movies has a direct link to tourism, the economy, and local businesses. With the popularity of film showing no sign of abating, it’s a trend which will only continue to grow.

About Irma Hunkeler

Hunkeler works for BlueGlass, a digital marketing agency. Her experience includes working for clients in different industries such as travel, retail, recruitment, technology, and charitable institutions. Extensive networking and meeting professionals across different industries, allow her to collaborate with industry experts for her writing.

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