The White Lotus is heading to Thailand. What kind of tourism hoopla will follow?

TV tourism isn’t a new idea. Back in the 1960s, tourists flocked to Salzburg, Austria, after The Sound of Music was released, according to the New York Times. More recently, New Zealand can thank Lord of the Rings for a significant increase in visitation, and Game of Thrones set tourists alight, contributing about USD$195 million in tourism revenue for Croatia between 2013 and 2018, according to a study from the University of Zadar. Northern Ireland, too, estimated about £50 million in tourism revenue in 2018 after scenes for Game of Thrones were filmed there. Just this month, Skift reported that about 80 percent of France’s foreign tourists said they wanted to visit after seeing something filmed in the country. That’s not surprising, considering Emily in Paris has its own official Parisian tour now, complete with a pastry lesson and a masterclass in ‘Le Flirt’.

In the last few years, TV tourism has risen to new levels, though. Filming locations often brand themselves with “as seen on…” signage and marketing. In Northumberland, England, you can visit castles proud of their roles in Harry Potter and Indiana Jones, and in Iceland, you’ll find campervan rental companies capitalizing on Game of Thrones by listing out for you exactly where you should drive to see the real-life places that served as locations in the series.

Many hotels have collaborated with TV and film productions to create suites that allow guests to feel like they’re having an immersive experience straight off the screen. That includes Club Wyndham teaming up with Hallmark Channel for ‘Countdown to Christmas’ suites and The Graduate hotel creating aStranger Things’ suite in its Bloomington, Indiana, location. Airbnb also regularly offers stunt bookings, such as a Malibu Barbie-inspired mansion kitted out like Ken’s ‘Mojo Dojo Casa House’ from the movie. 

Last year, American Express surveyed people’s travel habits and inspiration and found that 64 percent of respondents had been inspired to travel somewhere after seeing it in a movie or TV show. TV makes an easy sell for tourists, and destinations know this. In 2014, Creative England and Visit England collaborated on a guide to teach local communities how to capitalize on the fame filming sites could bestow upon their communities. That year, they estimated that screen tourism in England alone, excluding London, amounted up to £140 million in tourism revenue.

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