This got me wondering whether a place’s tourism prospects improve substantially merely because it features in a film or a television series. I dug around a bit and came up with some interesting possibilities.
For one, I can see why Berlin Tourism is so excited at the possibility of reaping a Bollywood dividend if Don 2 is filmed in the city — they have the Yash Chopra–Switzerland tourism experience to inspire them.
It is widely believed that Chopra almost single-handedly transformed Switzerland’s tourism prospects in India by filming large chunks of several of his movies there. So much so that there’s now a tour run by Chopra’s company Yash Raj Films, travel company SOTC and the Switzerland-based Brandinvest AG that attempts to leverage the Chopra-Switzerland connection.
The YRF Enchanted Journey takes tourists to sites and locations in Switzerland featured in Yash Raj Films’ films like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Mohabbatein, Veer-Zaara and Chandni. Obviously, Berlin Tourism would love to attract Indian tourists in droves with similar Bollywood-inspired itineraries.
Film tourism is a growing phenomenon worldwide, write Simon Hudson and J.R. Brent Ritchie of Canada’s University of Calgary in Promoting Destinations via Film Tourism: An Empirical Identification of Supporting Marketing Initiatives. Though the paper, published in 2006, focuses on crafting a model for exploiting film tourism marketing opportunities, it throws up some interesting figures on the impacts of film tourism. For instance, it says that the Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scotland witnessed a 300 per cent increase in the number of visitors the year after the film Braveheart was released. Similarly, it says that the locations in which the Harry Potter films were shot saw a 50 per cent rise in visitors.
Stately Attraction - How Film and Television Programmes Promote Tourism in the UK, commissioned in 2007 by a consortium led by the UK Film Council, presents a more nuanced picture. The report’s key conclusion is that “British films and television programmes have a significant, positive effect on tourism.” It also speaks of films and television programmes shot in the UK contributing to the “wider branding of the UK”.
More interesting, perhaps, for tourism mavens is the report’s assertion that “Typically, it is the associated sites, rather than shooting locations, which benefit the most, as is the case with Braveheart.” Equally significant, especially from Berlin Tourism’s point of view, is that the report suggests that “A specific Bollywood Tourism Strategy be developed in order to tap into this substantial but, currently under-exploited market.
Closer home — in Kerala — too the tourism authorities have been making noises about film tourism. The Kerala Tourism web site, for instance, promotes ‘shooting locations’ in the State. Segments of several Hollywood and Bollywood films have been shot in Kerala — Mistress of Spices, Bombay, Dil Se and most recently Ravan (Ravanan). A few years ago, Kerala Tourism also supported the filming of a couple of episodes of a popular Hindi television series in the State. Whether being a location for all these films has done much to boost Kerala’s tourism prospects is, of course, another matter.
So does being a film location give a place a tourism high? Perhaps.
In the UK’s case, for example, the ‘Stately Attraction’ report points out that in 2000 eight Indian films were shot in Scotland. According to figures from VisitScotland, the number of Indian visitors to Scotland rose from 8,000 in 2000 to 14,000 in 2003; and the money spent by Indian visitors in the region rose from £2 million to £7 million during the same period. Of course, it could be argued that the rise in Indian tourists to Scotland may also have been an organic process; rooted more in the growing interest in travel among well-to-do Indians as an off-shoot of the country’s economic growth.
And as VisitScotland itself, in a case study on New Zealand, states: “Film locations and tourism impacts remain a difficult area to draw hard correlations and cause and effect relationships.”
Perhaps what a film or a television series does best is create widespread awareness about a place; like The Lord of the Rings films did for New Zealand. Or perhaps, a film transforms the way we look at a country or a city.
At the end of the day, a film creates an image of a place; tells a story about it. But that image needs to be supported by savvy marketing if it is to grow into a strong tourism brand that attracts a large number of visitors. So it seems Berlin Tourism has sufficient reason to be excited about the Badshah of Bollywood shooting a film in the city. If it plays the right cards and plays them well, being a location for Don 2 may just transform Berlin into a popular destination for Indian tourists.Pictures courtesy Berlin Tourism and YRF Enchanted Journey