Screen tourism, also referred to as film tourism or film-induced tourism, is a phenomenon in which the depiction of a location on screen subsequently drives tourist visits. The effects for some locations can be both powerful and lucrative and many destinations have tracked significant screen tourism impacts.
Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, famously the home of Hogwarts for the first two Harry Potter films, generated £4.3 million in screen tourism spend in 2014, while Bampton, the village at the heart of Downton Abbey, has spawned an estimated value of £2.7 million. And the success of the Disney animated film Frozen reportedly led to a 37% increase in US visitors to Norway in the first three months of 2014.
The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit franchises have transformed New Zealand, a country that depended on dairy exports, into a world leader in screen tourism, despite its remoteness from European and US markets. Hobbiton, the 12 acre movie set on the Matamata farm in the Waikato region of New Zealand, has become one of the most recognisable and in-demand tourist attractions in New Zealand. The New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment states that international spending in the district has risen more than threefold from NZ$11m in 2009 to NZ$37m in 2014.
There is a proven relationship between screen content and tourism, and countries that can attract the production of high-quality film and television can also see a related growth in tourism.
As the agency responsible for driving the development of the production sector here, we brought in a not insignificant television series to film a pilot in 2009. Game of Thrones has become a worldwide phenomenon and is HBO’s most watched show ever, having overtaken The Sopranos back in 2014. Recognising the impact of the series early on and its potential to Northern Ireland in the screen tourism arena, Northern Ireland Screen has been at the forefront of developing this relatively new industry centred on the show.
Through building up a strong and positive relationship with HBO over the years, we have benefitted greatly and have been able to launch several screen tourism initiatives and are hopeful of more in the future.
- In partnership with HBO, we developed a Game of Thrones Northern Ireland filming locations app which is free to download for both Apple and Android. Bridging the gap between fantasy and reality, users can flip between the mythical worlds of Westeros and Essos and the real Northern Ireland filming locations. The app gives you information on which scenes filmed where and helps you navigate those locations accessible to the public.
- Working with the various councils across Northern Ireland where filming has taken place, we have designed a series of interpretive signs for the more than 20 publicly accessible locations across the region.
- In partnership with the Visitor Centre at the Giant’s Causeway, we supplied photography and text for a new Game of Thrones section of their Ranger’s Station wall.
We continue to work with the tourist boards, Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland to maximise the screen tourism opportunities from Game of Thrones.