Stars may fade and the lure of celebrity dull and wane, but certain trends quickly become bonafide classics. As a theme within the wider travel sector, film tourism shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. Indeed, the ideas of film tourism and, most specifically, the concept of set-jetting — that is, travelling to destinations that have served as filming locations — is yet again big news in 2024. So big, in fact, that we have elected to make this the theme of this year’s Simpleview EMEA Summit. With registrations for September’s event in Bristol — a UNESCO City of Film — now open, it’s the perfect moment to talk about film tourism and all that it means for DMOs and the destinations they serve.

A Positive Force for DMOs and Communities

The White Lotus. Schitts Creek. The Godfather. The Lord of The Rings Trilogy. Harry Potter … though completely disparate in genre and appeal, these works have all propelled the destinations in which they were filmed right into the spotlight. Whether it's the Sicilian city of Taormina or the Toronto suburb of Goodwood, the focus of the camera has given these places an added lustre, a kind of pedigree that helps to draw in and attract visitors. For many Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs), the exposure gained when their destination is used as a film location is invaluable; after all, just a single hit film or TV series can raise the visibility of a destination to an entirely new audience of potential visitors, each of whom want to authentically experience the place they’ve seen on screen. 

Canny DMOs know that they can leverage the on-screen popularity of the place they represent, using it to widen their appeal and, importantly, to differentiate their destination from those of nearby competitors. More to the point — from a branding perspective — film tourism enables these organisations to create a positive image and thereby, a positive mental association for their destination. After all, the images and experiences played out on screen only add to the perception of a place in the minds of potential tourists. 

But from an all-important economic perspective, DMOs are well aware of the incredible impact that film tourism can have on the destinations they serve. After all, visitors may initially be drawn to a particular place by the lure of the camera, but the cash they spend on accommodation, dining, etc., during the course of their stay represents a considerable contribution to any local economy. If managed properly, DMOs understand that film tourism can play an important part in the longer-term development of a destination.

How DMOs Can Tap Into the Trend

With the benefits of film tourism so very clear, here are some actionable suggestions for any DMOs looking to tap into the seemingly unstoppable trend of jet-setting:

  • Be film friendly: While this doesn’t necessarily mean establishing a specialised film office to promote your area, you should make it as easy as possible for production companies to find all the information that they need to pick your destination as their perfect filming location. Consider having a page on your website to showcase locations available for filming within your destination along with contact details for each specific area. As an aside, you may also want to take some stock B-roll footage of your destination and make it readily available for use by production companies. This is one of the easiest ways to get your destination on film.

  • Utilise the box office trends: Big films = big opportunities. That is to say, these launches offer the chance for you, as a DMO, to create themed products in your destination to whip up interest and drive inbound tourism. Just think, for example, how the buzz around recent blockbusters like Wonka, Asteroid City and Indiana Jones has spread well beyond their actual filming locations and consider how you, as a destination, can link into that kind of excitement. Whether it’s through the creation of themed itineraries that make the most of ‘like for like’ locations — as in Andalusia subbing for the American Southwest in the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s or Malta’s Fort Ricasoli standing in for Ancient Rome in Ridley Scott’s epic Gladiator) — or via the creation of specific experiences that can help your destination capitalise on an influx of jet-setting visitors, there are infinite possibilities for destinations to get involved in this trend.  

  • Promote successes: Finally, if your destination is due to premier on the big (or small) screen, then make sure to highlight this achievement via any and all relevant channels. Pointing to a real world example of a DMO that has truly embraced the film tourism trend, Visit Bath’s site features a dedicated page on Film and TV in Bath, celebrating all of the films and programmes that have been created using Bath as their backdrop, including a ‘seen on screen’ page with filming locations in the city and its surrounds. But as this short post from Marketing Liverpool shows, DMOs don’t even have to go as far as specialised pages to spotlight their success on screen.

Film tourism is a massive trend within the travel industry and this short blog barely scratches the surface of this huge phenomenon. But with registrations for this year’s Simpleview EMEA Summit now open, you can look forward to taking part in some in-depth discussions around the subject. Be sure to check out our panel discussion: “Setting the Scene: Film Tourism”, which features one of our guest speakers, Emma Wilkinson of VisitBritain, and get practical insights into how destinations can benefit and capitalise on this trend in tourism.