Why do people travel? To see beautiful vistas, meet new people, see great cultural relics, try new cuisines? Or is it because they saw it on TV?
That is the result of a new survey that shows that 96% of respondents (96% of men, 97% of women) have visited places associated with their favorite television shows or movies at least once.
Women travel more than men, but it seems that both men and women enjoy visiting cinematic destinations equally. While young women might not be as as interested in seeing where Breaking Bad was shot, they are likely to be interested in France, thanks to Emily in Paris. When I got my car serviced, a female service advisor said of HBO’s White Lotus, “I want to go! That hotel looks amazing!”
The study is from PhotoAid, a technology startup developing AI tools for taking biometric photos. Travelers can use PhotoAid to get online passport and visa photographs, biometric “compliance guaranteed.”
The study has some interesting findings:
· 78% of travelers are likely or very likely to opt for TV- or movie-themed trips in 2023 and beyond. Globally, the UK and Ireland are the most desirable screen tourism destinations owing to the success of Harry Potter.
· Thanks to the Jurassic Park franchise, Hawaii was the most desirable film tourism destination in the U.S., according to 31% of respondents.
· Lodging is the most frequently mentioned film tourism expense (60%), followed by transportation (53%) and sightseeing (50%).
· 68% of Americans have a negative attitude toward fellow travelers striking irreverent poses or otherwise misbehaving when visiting the sites of actual tragic events depicted in shows or movies like Chernobyl or Schindler’s List.
· The most common reason to engage in film tourism (35%) is to enjoy an immersive experience that lets one live out storylines of your favorite TV or streaming shows or films.
While that will mostly happen in your mind (unless you bring along a script and run lines with fellow travelers) you can literally follow in the footsteps of famous characters.
Worldwide, the shows most in mind for tourism are:
· Harry Potter (UK, Ireland), 20.2%
· The Lord of the Rings (New Zealand), 18.1%
· Game of Thrones (Northern Ireland, UK, Croatia, Spain), 17%
· Squid Game (South Korea), 16.7%
· Sherlock (UK), 15.9%
In 2019, my wife and I inadvertently joined a glut of fellow travelers visiting Gaztelugatxe. An island in the Bay of Biscay in Northern Spain, it turns out to have been the Game of Thrones location for Daenerys Targaryen’s ancestral home of Dragonstone. The 10th Century monastery became a grand castle with the help of CGI.
The survey says that Americans are watching more TV than ever before, with the average person likely to stream 437 hours of content in 2023, almost 20 full days of binge-watching. And with much of the world locked down by COVID, television and film has literally been our window to the world.
For 44% of respondents, a favorite TV show or film was the main reason to visit a particular spot, and that for 39%, it had some influence. The study found that 73% found visiting a destination featured on screen positive or very positive.
The most popular US film and TV show destinations are:
· Jurassic Park (Hawaii), 30.6%
· Friends (New York), 30.5%
· Joker  (New York), 28.6%
· Home Alone 2 (New York) , 27.9%
· Big Little Lies (Monterey, California), 25%
Still, there are limits. One Millennial was describing a trip to Kauai and touring the area where Jurassic Park was filmed. PhotoAid says that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has given Hawaii’s economy a $31M boost and more than $6.9M in wages to 1,200 workers. My acquaintance said, “It was nice, but it was just green and trees and jungle.” I asked, “Were you chased by a dinosaur?” “No!”
Still, when asked how likely they are to pick their next vacation destinations based on their favorite TV show or movie in 2023 and beyond, 45% they were likely to do so, and 33% very likely. Why do people go to destinations they’ve seen on the screen?
· To emotionally immerse oneself in a place where the TV show/movie was filmed, 35%
· To experience the city’s scenery shown in the show, 34.9%
· To visit restaurants featured in the show, 34.4%
· To discover a meaningful place with a story rather than visit a trendy destination, 33.9%
· To visit a location a favorite celebrity has been to, 33.6%
The most popular screen destinations seem to be driven by a combination of recency, popularity, and persistence. Friends ran from 1994 to 2004, but it is one of the most popular TV shows of all time and is constantly in reruns. By contrast, we visited Blackjack Ranch and Winery in Los Osos, CA, one of the settings for the cult comic hit Sideways. The host pouring wine groused about how few people were visiting from an “eighteen-year-old movie.”
Airbnb has jumped on the film and TV bandwagon with rentals of a Scooby Doo ‘Mystery Machine’, a Queer Eye home, and a Moulin Rouge red windmill overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Hopefully each had carbon monoxide detectors installed.
Netflix partnered with the UN World Tourism Organization to “help destinations realize the potential benefits of screen tourism.” And “Visit Albuquerque” makes it easy for Breaking Bad fans planning a visit to New Mexico to hit the high spots.
“Film tourism is a rapidly growing form of tourism that lacks empirical research,” says Tomek Mlodzki, CEO of PhotoAid. “That’s why we wanted to shed some light on the topic and unearth people’s experiences with film tourism, find out what they think of it, and trace how it benefits local economies.”
The online survey had 1,060 U.S. respondents, 66.8% male and 33.2% female. Some 7.6% of respondents were 25 or younger, and 70.01% were aged 26–38. The survey was weighted to ensure findings are representative.