The practice of visiting places used as filming locations in movies and television production
by Judy Schultz
In choosing destinations to advance the narrative, location professionals create an ever-increasing side(ways) effect on tourism known as “location vacations.” Location tourism is big business, driving tourism development in many destinations around the world. Production, film commissions, tourism and location partners who have adapted some of the most successful visitor campaigns address the benefits of the economic impact of on-location filming—the gift that keeps giving.
The tents are down, the trucks are wrapped. Maybe there will be a local premiere to plan, but for now, it’s time to devote your attention to other projects, marketing and reports, right? Well … maybe not so fast… Screen tourism is a billion-dollar industry. Thousands of travelers circle the globe every year to visit their favorite movie and television show locations—and their numbers are growing. According to a 2018 report from the Louisiana Office of Tourism, nine percent of visitors were influenced by Louisiana productions to see sites they viewed in a film or TV show. That translates to millions of dollars generated by screen tourism. Savvy film, tourism and historic preservation offices, as well as tour operators and merchants are all working in concert to capitalize on this booming industry.
Many film and tourism offices have online maps or articles featuring their filming locations. LMGI film office partners Nevada, Oahu, Valencia, Humboldt-Del Norte, Savannah and Monterey County offer information on their websites. Nevada provides information on movie/TV location tour operators. Hawaii has also capitalized on film tourism with various private operators giving location tours from popular productions, including Jurassic Park, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Lost and Hawaii Five-0. New Mexico even has a Breaking Bad-themed film tourism initiative encouraging local chambers, cities, tribes and their local businesses to participate with their film tourism web page. “Breaking Bad launched the screen tourism business in Albuquerque,” says New Mexico Film Office Director Todd Christensen. “We hope that as productions move to other scenic and unique parts of the state, film fans will discover more New Mexico areas to explore … that have a film history, as well as historical and cultural attractions for tourists.” These tools are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential economic impact produced by location filming.
—ROBBIE BOAKE/LMGI on the 2008-2018 run of Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland
Hobbiton, New Zealand, LOTR & The Hobbit Trilogies
Hobbiton™ movie set photos by Shaun Jeffers
Let’s start with the granddaddy of movie production that had an explosive impact on tourism, New Zealand’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 1998, director Peter Jackson spotted the Alexander beef and sheep farm during an aerial scout in New Zealand’s Waikato region. A location scout was dispatched and a deal was struck to use the property. The Alexanders had no idea at the time what impact this would have on their lives. Fast-forward 20 years and, although still a working farm, it has become one of the most visited tourist attractions in New Zealand. The nine-month site construction built in 1999 hosted 400 workers during production. The first film was released in 2001 and by the end of 2002, Russell Alexander, with the permission of New Line Cinema, began giving tours. Alas, as with most movie sets, construction was temporary and removed at the end of the shoot. Based on storyboards and insight gathered from filming, the tours consisted of vacant hobbit holes connected by scenic pathways with a visit to the party tree. When production came calling to shoot The Hobbit trilogy, the Alexanders were ready. This time, builders took two years to create the permanent construction of their idyllic 17th-century English country vision. And, in partnership with Peter Jackson, Hobbiton was born.
33,000 visitors were recorded in 2011, 232,000 in the same time period in 2014 and 360,000 in 2016. When the operation began, there was one staff member with Russell Alexander helping out while still working the farm. In the first three months of 2016, 92 staff were hired and a total of 180 people worked during peak season. Russell’s brother and father now work the farm while he manages Hobbiton. A restaurant has been added and the property is available for special events. 2014 government spending statistics estimate of the $17.2 billion spent on domestic and international tourism, $142 million was spent visiting Hobbiton. There are several tour operators available, including ones for those who enjoy cosplay (a portmanteau of costume play for more extreme fans), providing LOTR tours.
Another business that sprung from the making of the films is the Weta Workshop, a world-renowned special effects and prosthetics workshop that is a tourism destination of its own. Guests can tour the Weta Cave to view displays of props from various films, a behind-the-scenes documentary, and items and replicas for sale made by their artists. They also provide an area for photo ops with life-sized sculptures.
Tourism New Zealand (TNI) worked closely with the LOTR production and studio to create successful, advantageous marketing plans and PR campaigns which they continue to do with other films shot in New Zealand. LOTR continues to be a model for successful film tourism. A New Zealand tour operator was a guest speaker for a Northern Ireland conference regarding maximizing screen tourism opportunities. Tourism Northern Ireland is also setting a fine example not only in promoting screen tourism, but in assisting to develop local businesses based on capturing these particular visitors extending the economic impact of filming on location.
Northern Ireland and Game of Thrones
Photos by Helen Sloan/HBO
Through the phenomenon of the worldwide popularity of Game of Thrones, Northern Ireland reports there is a proven relationship between screen content and tourism growth. Film and TV motivate travel due to NI’s unique landscape, culture and destinations, and this exposure may result in immediate specific travel or affect future destination decisions of those seeking to visit filming locations. An entire section of their website is devoted to HBO’s most watched show. In collaboration with Tourism Ireland and HBO, they developed creative campaigns to attract fans by addressing popular elements from the show. These include a museum display of an 80-meter tapestry telling the complete story and a “Journey of Doors” passport where visitors collect unique stamps for each location at nearby pubs where the doors are displayed.
In collaboration with Northern Ireland Screen, an interactive app was developed that allows users to switch between the fictional lands of the story and actual filming locations. Once visitors arrive, there are kiosks with interactive panels. Both the app and the panels feature official HBO photography with scene details of what was filmed at the location.
Their website also includes information on experiences and tours, but TNI goes beyond providing general information for visitors. There is a section devoted to those interested in developing businesses targeting Game of Thrones tourists, with specific guidelines for creating a retail business, tour or experience with a visitor grading scheme and checklist. They have taken additional steps to further the economic impact of location filming in their region. Tourism Northern Ireland also has hosted industry events sharing screen tourism insight, as well as consumer events that generated impressive direct spending, international visitor numbers and millions in public relations (PR) value.
Northern Ireland has since been featured in many other films and television shows, attracting major international projects to their production hub and natural landscapes. At the same time, they build tourism experiences around those filming locations for the worldwide tourists those projects create. This formula for promoting screen tourism appears to be emerging as a pattern for success.
A Location Pro’s Perspective
by Robbie Boake
Photos by Helen Sloan/HBO
In his 10-year run, LMGI Award winner and Game of Thrones supervising location manager Robbie Boake/LMGI has had more than his share of film tourism. He continuously seeks creative solutions to manage his responsibilities while respecting his location partners and visits from enthusiastic fans.
By the time we returned to some locations shot earlier in the series, they became established as major tourist attractions, with great increases in visitors due to the “Game of Thrones effect.” Ballintoy Harbour (Pyke Harbor and Dragonstone), for example, which we returned to in Season 8, has regular daily tour buses, private minicabs filled with GoT tourists, and scene re-enactments with people dressing up thematically and visiting the exact areas where scenes were filmed. Revisiting such an area to film new scenes can present issues.
Near Larne, we needed police assistance to help with tour buses stopping on a high-speed main road. Tourists would climb out of these buses with a hope to photograph Castle Black and it became very unsafe. We built a very tall privacy fence so that the incentive for tour operators to stop the coaches was removed. We also invested in very large signage to encourage the buses to move on. In other cases, the location is simply no longer workable. The Dark Hedges, for example (where we filmed a very brief scene in Season 1), is now filled with tour buses and hundreds of people photographing the lane every day. I had to find an equivalent “lookalike” avenue of trees on a private estate so we could get on with our business.
In one of our last technical scouts of Season 8, around 200 people arrived on a GoT tour to visit the caves we were working in. It was the weirdest thing hearing these GoT fans and visitors talk through old scenes while we were trying to complete a final scout for our Season 8 plans.
The sites themselves did not contribute too much toward making the process any easier for us. There wasn’t really too much they could do. It really became a matter of intelligent management and also a sense of coming to the realization that it was going to be tougher as the years went on. Sometimes you just have to get on with it and factor in increased attention as you progress.
In public locations in Northern Ireland, for example, a Forest Park where people like to walk, we are encouraged to allow services to continue as much as possible. Your location plan needs to take public access into account. So, for example, you may need to allow access at certain times or provide advanced signage so people can make alternative plans. You try to offer diversion routes and alternatives. Safety is paramount and in some cases, we simply needed to shut an area off. Film sets are inherently unsafe, with movement of heavy industrial traffic and fast-paced work to get the day (or night) achieved. The requirement for privacy in our work is also very important. In later years, we were continually followed by fans and media looking to get a story line scoop. One has to sensitively secure the set, with clear parameters in place. After all, the reason the show is a success is because of the fans, so you have to respect that. But, as a balance to that argument, you simply cannot let scenes be photographed and allow the work to be given away. There has to be respect for our process from the public as well. There was a responsibility to the millions of people who watched the show to protect what we were doing and to not allow spoilers.
If we were in an exposed area, for example, Carnlough Harbour, it was almost impossible to keep media and fans away from the scene. We were literally surrounded by hundreds of people and it became a matter of just getting on with it and completing our work as efficiently as possible. As the show morphed into what it finally became, it was apparent that we needed to adapt our overall operational work and security discussions. What I began in 2008 and concluded in 2018, were two totally different productions. It’s so important that one can adapt and manage these changes. Generally this means more budget, so you need to have the faith of your bosses that you are growing and reacting to the changed circumstances with inventive management and new techniques to handle the challenges.
One of the things I learned quickly was to take my ID badge off while scouting! People very quickly work out that you are in the area and start to draw conclusions. The public level of knowledge about the show was extraordinary so theories get hatched very quickly. I also covered my GoT studio access stickers on my windscreen because they started to generate attention. On some technical scouts, I requested that crew hide their GoT ID cards. You do your best but there is nothing as obvious as 50 people huddling around in wet gear taking notes on a beach. It’s also really important to have a detailed security plan. It’s critical that your crew and security stay calm under pressure and that the assignment instructions are clear. Engaging local agencies and community leaders can be very beneficial. A good news story like ours was positive for the entire country, so you find local agencies and councils and organizations tend to be very helpful. For example, the air support unit of the PSNI and the Harbour Police in Belfast were incredibly helpful in providing dedicated officers toward our operations as they became more complicated. NI SCREEN, our film commission, was absolutely great and accessible when times got tough. The good thing with NI is that it is community-based. If you partner with the folks on the ground who are allowing you to film on their properties, they will be your strongest allies. It’s something unique about this show in that we really did become a large family and I’m confident that our location owners all know how much they were respected by me for the support they gave us.
The GoT effect on NI tourism has been profound. I’m not surprised that we have positively benefited the local tourism industry. It’s been an absolute game changer for Northern Ireland. We have spent a decade making an exquisite travel commercial which has really captured the beauty of this region. It’s a gorgeous, interesting place and it feels great to see how many people are prepared to make the journey here to appreciate it in person.
Santa Barbara’s Sideways Effect
Photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox
It was an independent film directed by Alexander Payne that brought the term “effect” (by a movie) to tourism illustrating that any production, no matter the size, can provide beneficial economic impact to its locations. The Oscar-winning film Sideways follows the road trip through Central California coastal wine country of a pair of friends celebrating the last days of bachelorhood. The movie became an international hit and, with the help of a well-thoughtout marketing campaign supported by director Alexander Payne and Fox Searchlight, tourists from all over the globe flocked to the Santa Ynez Valley for wine tours following the movie’s path. At the same time, area wine sales vastly increased worldwide with both effects boosting the local economy. This impact from the film became known as the “Sideways Effect,” generating a model for successful economic impact strategy in conjunction with location filming.
Fox Searchlight partnered with Visit Santa Barbara to coordinate marketing campaigns in conjunction with the film’s PR and marketing cycles and the visitors bureau had packaged tour content to accommodate the increase in domestic and international travelers by the home entertainment release. Key locations in the film benefited from their promotions generating more tour packages with one hotel even branding themselves as the Sideways Inn. Visit Santa Barbara developed a location map with images from the film and scene descriptions for each location as well as a one-day itinerary that is still currently available on their website. Additional Sideways wine tours can also be found online.
Another significant economic impact was a demand for Santa Barbara County wines. Pinot noir sales worldwide spiked 30 percent, business for the vineyards featured in the film increased by an average of 42 percent and the number of local wineries has doubled since the movie’s release.
In 2014, Visit Santa Barbara and Fox Searchlight worked together again on a 10-year anniversary celebration with a commemorative Blu-ray release with another integrated marketing campaign. Win-win.
Monterey Reaps Big Local Benefitsfrom Big Little Lies
Photos by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/HBO
Monterey is a small seaside suburb of Sydney, Australia, not far from Sydney’s North Beaches. This area is depicted as the fictional town of Pirriwee, in Liane Moriarity’s Big Little Lies. When the producers of the HBO series adaptation went looking for the perfect exterior coastal setting, it was no surprise that Monterey, California, came to mind. Although most of the filming is shot in Los Angeles, the production generated nearly $2.5 million in 20 days of filming in 2016 during the first season on location on the Monterey Peninsula and nearly $3.5 million in 2018 when they shot 36 locations in 31 days (kudos to their Location Department!) during Season 2. 350 extras were utilized in Season 1 and 1,100 in Season 2.
Karen Nordstrand, Director of Marketing & Film Production for LMGI business partner Monterey County Film Commission, said that it was great that the series identifies the city, so name recognition and branding were automatically in place. One marketing strategy was asking for local product placement like wine, jams, candies, etc., to be used as set decoration and props to promote the region.
Paluca Trattoria was the inspiration for the cafe where the three main characters often meet. The restaurant has experienced a 30 percent increase in business since the series premiered and were very pleased to purchase a new cappuccino machine with some of the profits. They have also brought an increase in visitors to Old Fisherman’s Wharf where the restaurant is located. A new set called The Coffee Shack that was built for Season 2 is being stored by the city. Perhaps it can be reassembled and put to use in the future as an attraction.
A Big Little Lies section graces the Monterey County website (seemonterey.com). An interactive map and description of the beaches, parks and other featured landmarks encourages visitors to create their own itinerary following the footsteps of the characters through this iconic coastal community.
Film Tourism vs. On-Location Film Tourism
There are also screen tourism promotion possibilities through interest in visiting destinations where the story is set as opposed to where it was actually shot, an opportunity to double tourism opportunities.
For example, The Originals, the spin-off of The Vampire Diaries series, is set in New Orleans and Louisiana. Fans of the show can take a tour with On Location Gifts/Hollywood of the South Tours to visit the actual filming locations of The Originals, as well as the fictional Mystic Falls of The Vampire Diaries, both shot in Georgia. But with at least 10 percent of screen tourists interested in visiting locations where their favorite movie or show is set, some fans are eager to visit the iconic New Orleans locations where the story of The Originals takes place. Therefore, there is also the opportunity for tourism to promote and reap the benefits of an itinerary of these Louisiana destinations featured in the series.
The Originals did, however, shoot occasionally in New Orleans. Jonathan Ray, operator of New Orleans Movie & TV Tours, a company that visits actual production sites, is aware of where scenes were filmed and can include those locations in his tours.
Jonathan confirmed that his clients specifically visit the city because of exposure to Louisiana on screen, many of them fans of the CBS series NCIS: New Orleans. He also says that most projects shot in Louisiana are not set there, so people on his tours are unaware of many other productions. While tourism’s periodic film economic reports support production continuing in the state, Jonathan would like to see more support promoting film tourism. Perhaps it would generate more businesses such as his interested in marketing to visitors, further boosting the local economy. According to their latest report, the visitor data skews to an older middle-class group that most probably would have a fair amount of disposable income.
Years ago, there seemed to be a “vampire” on every corner in the French Quarter offering tours due to the success of the Anne Rice series Interview with the Vampire. (I myself over-nighted at a “haunted” mansion B&B where Brad Pitt reportedly stayed during the production of the film.) Jonathan said there are still similar tours available dedicated to vampire, witch and ghost lore, but thinks he is the only movie and TV tour operator in the city.
Outlander, another book series adapted for the small screen, appears to be the latest screen tourism phenomenon, particularly for Scotland where the first three novels take place. However, in the Starz hit series upcoming seasons, the story moves to the New World and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Even though production did not move to the United States and continues to shoot Scotland for U.S. locations, the popularity of the book series and show could be a draw for North Carolina tourism. Yet, a search of Outlander on the NC Tourism site only yielded one event hosting book writer Diana Gabaldon and a general internet search produced a smattering of Outlander-related products in North Carolina, including an Outlander-inspired tour of the governor’s Tyron Palace and a “Finding Fraser’s Ridge” website which maps out Outlander sites and events related to the book and TV series.
Guy Gaster, Director of the North Carolina Film Office, says their “Tourism office has not really set anything up to capture visitors being inspired to visit the state based off of books. That said, we certainly have seen interest in some areas increase whenever Nicholas Sparks books have come out as they tend to be set in towns in our state, but they don’t have anything set up with regards to the Outlander books or television series.” But with what the Northern Ireland research shows, as well as Diana Gabaldon’s recent award from Visit Scotland due to research “revealing that attractions used in the popular television adaptation of her famous novels have seen visitor numbers soar by 67 percent since 2013 from 887,000 to 1.5 million,” North Carolina may want to take advantage of centralizing promotion of their real-life landscapes and historical locations featured in the Outlander series whose fans are already generating tourists eager to visit their state.
Up Schitt’s Creek
by John Rakich
Photos courtesy of John Rakich/LMGI
It was a little homegrown Canadian comedy about a wealthy family down on their luck moving back to the town with the funny name that became an Emmy-nominated sleeper hit. It transformed the sleepy little town of Goodwood, Ontario, Canada into an international tourist attraction. The picturesque bedroom community north of Toronto, with a population of 663, is also known as Schitt’s Creek.
It has attracted busloads of tourists from all over the world hoping to see the sets and stars during the filming of its sixth and final season in 2019. “We are constantly asked by fans if Schitt’s Creek is a real place they can visit, and it is beyond exciting to finally be able to say ‘Yes!’” wrote Pop TV president Brad Schwartz in a statement about the final season.
Earlier in June of 2019, dozens of die-hards visited Goodwood as part of SchittCon, an event tied to a 14,000-member “Schitt’s Creek Fans Shoot the Schitt” Facebook group. Indeed, this show and its fans has put Goodwood on the map—literally.
The key spot for fans, affectionately referred to as “Schittheads,” is where several Schitt’s landmarks sit opposite each other at one main intersection: auto shop Bob’s Garage, general store Rose Apothecary and the diner Cafe Tropical.
Annina’s Bakeshop, which sits at the same intersection as these three landmarks, was the set’s caterer from Seasons 1-5 and sees the cast drop in occasionally. Owner Marco Cassano said business spiked recently as fans flooded the area to see the set one last time, and as the show’s presence on Netflix made it an international phenomenon. He adds, “It was good for atmosphere, publicity, getting our name out there… So it was good all the way around for the economy.”
Then there’s Schitt’s Creek Town Hall down the street and various other Goodwood locations used for filming.
Goodwood resident Sue Skovhoj admitted she was initially skeptical about the moniker of Schitt’s Creek for the affluent area, which comprises a mix of new gated neighborhoods, century homes from the 1800s, and farms. That fear quickly dissipated as the cast and crew proved themselves to be polite, helpful and community-oriented. Much of that goodwill stemming from the hard work of Geoffrey Smither/LMGI. Location manager for all six seasons, Smither submitted just under thirty towns for consideration before production settled on Goodwood. Once chosen he spent quite a bit of time warming up the Goodwood town council and local residents not just to the filming but to the name of the show. Smither happily recalls that the entire council bursting out laughing when it was stated for the official record.
Dave Barton, mayor of Goodwood’s township of Uxbridge, has said in recent interviews that the show has been a been a real economic boost to the town, a statement echoed by Eileen Kennedy the Economic Development Officer for the Regional Municipality of Durham, “There’s a real sense of pride and we’re very sad to see it go.”
Luckily, even though the series has finished the show is still gaining in popularity and more fans from around the globe are making the pilgrimage. It looks like the fine folks of Goodwood will be in the spotlight for some time.
The Outlander Effect
Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Television Inc.
Visitor growth at Scotland attractions used for location filming on the television adaptation of the book series Outlander in the last five years: Doune Castle – 226.5 percent, Blackness Castle – 181.7 percent, Glasgow Cathedral – 66.8 percent, Culloden Visitor Centre – 65.84 percent and Culross Palace – 53.38 percent. These are but a few of the astounding statistics found in Visit Scotland’s “The Outlander Effect & Tourism” paper. As part of this report, “All Scottish visitor attractions were surveyed to discover how screen tourism and Outlander has impacted businesses. Almost all respondents considered screen tourism as positive for the industry and a fifth of attractions located adjacent to filming locations saw an increase in visitors.” It also states that “The vast majority of visitor attractions agree screen tourism is beneficial and something that if the opportunity presented, should be capitalized on. For attractions adjacent to Outlander locations, 15 percent reported developing new product development and specific events related to film tourism.” This is an excellent comprehensive study including screen tourism business best practices, a tour operator case study, visitor information and analytics, local and attraction insight and other tourism impacts of Outlander which can be found on Visit Scotland’s business site visitscotland.org.
Felicity Nixon, Filming & New Business Development Executive, Historic Environment Scotland (HES), agrees. Her visitor statistics confirm significant growth in visitor numbers at venues featured in Outlander. She also said that there has been an increased interest in sites with similar themes or aesthetics popularized by the show such as the Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis, not used in the filming, but similar to the main character’s stone circle that takes her back in time in the series. A recurring point with the Scotland tourism partners is that Outlander, although containing the fantasy element of time travel, is based in history distinguishing them from the entirely fantastical Game of Thrones series and The Lord of the Rings franchises. It is mostly this history that they like to emphasize and share with visitors.
Although cosplay and other experiences seem to be popular with fantasy fans visiting film locations, Emma Chalmers, operator for Mary’s Meanders tours, gets few costumed visitors on Outlander tours. Even though there is a visitor “dress up” area in the shop at Doune Castle for photos of guests in Outlander-inspired costumes, Nixon says a cosplay tour would be a challenge, as many of their sites already have historically accurate costumed performers (but she certainly is open to ideas). Although they do not have specific Outlander (or other film/TV) tours at their site, film tourism gives them an excellent opportunity to promote not only the film location, but also attractions that are intrinsically linked to the “true story.” For example, all of the sites linked to the Jacobite period in history. And even though the recently released Mary Queen of Scots movie only filmed at one of their attractions, 15 sites link to Mary’s story. Historic Environment Scotland creates thematic and content marketing campaigns linked to these productions promoting all of their attractions with “see the film, then explore the sites.”
Anna Rathband, filming manager for the National Trust for Scotland, echoes these sentiments. They appreciate Outlander’s beauty and historical accuracy on screen (it is not “gimmicky”). History can be pulled from real sources and the surge of visitors to Culloden is just one example of people connecting with the past. Jenni Steele, Film & Creative Industries manager, Visit Scotland agrees that history separates Outlander from fantasy-themed stories that give Scotland greater leeway in tourism promotion. Tour operator Chalmers says that many of her clients have an interest in history and ancestry, some wearing their clan tartan and kilts. One of the strongest draws of Outlander visitors mentioned by many of the tourism partners was in exploring their Scottish roots. Mary’s Meanders offers ancestry tours and Border Journeys specializes in helping visitors investigate their ancestry, including finding available public records to navigate their tour. Mary’s Meanders most popular tours are the classic Outlander tour and history on film tours. National Trust of Scotland provides Land Rover safaris of Glencoe (seen in Outlander’s opening credits) with a National Trust ranger.
But Scotland film and tourism partners have gone much further than tours to take advantage of economic opportunities generated by location filming. Rathband says they “Meet once every three months to discuss cooperative marketing campaigns, etc.” and Nixon confirmed that “Screen Scotland, Creative Scotland, VisitScotland, local councils and location hosts such as our filming team here at HES work closely together to explore ways of maximizing and monitoring film tourism after a successful production.” These ideas include specialized classes, events and products. Chef Jenni Thomson offers cooking courses to prepare Outlander-inspired 18th-century dishes. Outlander medicinal herbalist consultant Claire Mackay has done workshops at various historical locations used in the show, including Culross Palace where there is a historically accurate 18th-century garden used during the filming, as well as living history workshops concerning herbal medicine during the Jacobite period where visitors can make their own herbal ointments.
Historic Environment Scotland held a first-of-its-kind weekend event, “On Location at Blackness,” celebrating Blackness Castle’s status as a popular filming location. Nixon said this event was “primarily aimed at giving our domestic and local market a flavour of how the site has featured in film and TV; many of the performers or exhibitors who were part of the event had previously been directly involved with or featured in filming for these productions” shot at the castle. Visitors were invited to learn more about locations and techniques used in filming through various activities and watch arena performances featuring historic figures giving them a sneak peak into how the historic site is used in movie and television productions. A second event, “Spotlight on Mary,” featured the historical theme of Outlander. Although not directly tied to the movie, the hope is that the film will spark interest in visiting the real historical sites.
The Scotland film and tourism partners are also considering a possible Outlander costume exhibition. Rathband mentioned there had previously been a touring Macbeth costume exhibit that was a great success.
During an Outlander shoot in Falkland, actor Richard Rankin was spotted wearing a pom-pom beanie as part of his character’s wardrobe. Inspired knitters in town immediately recreated the hat to sell to tourists. Many local merchants provide Outlander-inspired products to set-jetters, including leather journals, glassware, and items with Celtic motifs and emblems. Other businesses mentioned are the Knight’s Vault which provides props and weaponry, including sword replicas and Hamilton & Young Jewelers where Outlander-inspired wedding bands and amber and Celtic jewelry are popular sellers. Nixon says that HES has “developed some of our own retail products that have an Outlander theme, but we also stock Scottish SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and family businesses who have also experienced success through development of Outlander product … for example, a graphic book of sketches of the main Outlander filming locations.” The products sell well at not only Outlander locations, but at other sites not included in the filming of the series. They also have exclusive rights to various Outlander products. Steele feels that “Outlander’s multiple story lines provide more ideas for products and services; they encourage businesses to ask fans/customers for ideas.”
Rathband mentions that lead actor and National Trust ambassador Sam Heughan “goes above and beyond” promoting his heritage. He supports Youth Theatre Arts, Cahonas Scotland, which educates the public in testicular cancer, and his alma mater, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where he recently hosted patron Prince Charles. He also recorded an audio tour for HES Doune Castle and when the Preston Mill featured in the first season of Outlander started a fundraiser for repairs, the money was soon raised when Heughan appealed to fans on social media. Enterprising Heughan is creating his own “Scot-tage industry” representing local clothing company Barbour with his own designs while aging whisky in barrels for his own Great Glen Company where he will sell other Scottish products. His global lifestyle charity program, My Peak Challenge, has brought visitors from all over the world to Glasgow and Edinburgh for two major member events where many stayed longer than the planned weekend touring Scotland. Rathband hopes that Scottish native actor Richard Rankin will do an ambassador campaign for the National Trust as well.
Some have accused “set-jetting” as contributing to over-tourism. Nixon admits that increases in tourism can present challenges, as well as opportunity. However, she points out, HES has made significant investments to the infrastructure at Doune Castle recently, which benefits all visitors, not just Outlandertourists. In 2017, they invested 73K enhancing the on-site shop and have “also introduced timed slots … to manage visitor flow and experience.” Sometimes the tours cross paths with production filming. Yet Chalmers feels that “overall, there is a positive economic impact, and they are building an industry raising the profile and awareness (of Scotland) as a film-friendly location.” Rathband adds that the NTS is “visitor- and film-friendly, as long as visitors are respectful of the production, and the integrity of the locations is maintained inside and out.” It’a a win-win experience for everyone.
As stated by Rosie Ellison, Film Commissioner, Film Edinburgh:
“For us as the local film commission, the legacy impact of film tourism is really important. Where filming itself has some economic impact, it’s nothing compared to the economic impact of ‘tourism associated with films & television, which helps us explain why it’s good to be ‘film-friendly.’ So we strive to raise awareness among the local community and tourism/hospitality businesses of the films and TV shows that feature Edinburgh and encourage them to develop products of interest to film-interested tourists.”
No matter what you call it—film tourism, set-jetting or a location vacation—location scouts and managers choosing these destinations to define a narrative also contribute to the local economy. This is so not only in the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent during production, but even more so with the residual economic opportunities that local film and tourism offices are developing, making it a win-win for all involved.