Screen Tourism

by Vanessa Ullman

photography courtesy of Sactown Mag

Lady Bird. Call Me by Your Name. The Florida Project. All three of these films share the fact that they were critically acclaimed, less commercialized films of 2017. Another connection? The significance that the backdrop has in creating everything from Luca Guadagnino’s picturesque Italian summer to Greta Gerwig’s honest lens on Sacramento, CA.

TV shows have also had a long history of bringing a location to life, in shows like The Office, where small-town Scranton, PA, has become a hub of tourism ever since the show gained viewership in the late-2000s.

With all this emphasis on the background, it is no wonder that more movies and TV shows have portrayed different areas of the globe. What is less known, however, is whether or not the mere location of a show in a certain city or town creates actual tourist sites.

The short answer? Yes. According to Film consultancy company Olsberg, screen tourism in the UK alone was worth close to £140 million (nearly $200 million) in 2014. Screen tourism, or choosing to visit locations based on specific media locations, has been popularized around the world.

In England, Alnwick Castle, which was prominently featured in Harry Potter films gained $6 million after the first two movies. Even the small town of Bampton garnered $3.8 million after the breakout of the hit series Downton Abbey.

Like England, the U.S. has seen similar tourism boosts in certain cities. In 2016’s La La Land, Los Angeles acted as the infamous backdrop for the movie musical, heightening tourism in an already admired city.

Don Skeoch, chief marketing officer for the LA tourism agency, Discover Los Angeles, noted in the LA Times the important role that the city plays in the film. "The city may be the film's biggest star," Skeoch said. "We believe fans will become inspired by what they see and want to visit and learn about the iconic locations."

A survey conducted by the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board confirmed this speculation, reporting that of almost 400 U.S. adults surveyed, 86% said that they would be either “more likely” or “much more likely” to visit L.A. after watching the film.

A different part of California became a movie star of sorts in Lady Bird, with the unique portrayal of Sacramento. VisitCalifornia.com now has a Lady Bird tour of Sacramento, which shows fans certain places that they can visit in real life. Although it is difficult to measure the exact financial impact the film has made on Sacramento’s tourism, it is clear from the VisitCalifornia.com article that the film has increased the number of people visiting the city.

If you have ever thought about traveling to a place that you have seen in your favorite movie or TV show, what are you waiting for? The tourism boost from trips like yours can help a city’s economy, especially in unlikely places. Scranton, PA, was just an old industrial, forgotten town to most before The Office, and now people have flocked there for photos and tours.

Even in cities where films and shows commonly take place, like New York City, screen tourism can still make an impact. The city even has premade tours that will please film and TV buffs, where tourists can see over 60 NYC locations used on film.

If you want to venture outside of the East Coast, try one of the several Atlanta Movie tours. The ‘Best of Atlanta’ tour looks at the film locations of The Hunger Games, Stranger Things, The Fast and the Furious and much more.

Whether in the U.S. or abroad, screen tourism is a great way to support a city and see your favorite film locations in real life. Screen tourism can have a real impact on a city, even if it is just the simple exposure of it to a new audience.

Next time you plan a trip, consider visiting a place you might have seen on screen. You won’t regret it.