Cinematic tourism: Definitions
It has been noted that especially over the last couple of decades, an increasing number of tourists began to visit destinations featured through films or TV series which are not directly related to tourism promotion campaigns. Many tourists also began to form tourist fan communities online and in filmed locations. This mass phenomenon is known by different terms, including ‘cinematic tourism’, ‘film-induced tourism’, or ‘movie-induced tourism’. All these terms forge links between tourism in new blended forms (e.g. visiting filmed locations to experience the cinematic story and to learn about the filmed location and its culture, or simultaneously engage in other types of tourism) and a particular medium (cinema and film).
Cinematic and film/movie-induced tourism are both interdisciplinary academic subjects and emerging agendas for business and policy-making concerning the management if tourist destination images and reputations. Although film-induced tourism is more connected to business studies rather than social science theory, it is by no means conceptually irrelevant to sociologists and tourist theorists. By the same token, although cinematic tourism traces its roots in social and cultural theory, it is practically applicable in business and management studies and state policies. Both terms, and especially that of cinematic tourism, are concerned with contemporaneous types of tourism we associate with the dawn of the 21st century and are connected to advanced forms of technology such as cinema and the Internet. Their chronological anchoring presents cinematic and film-induced tourism as part of late modernisation processes and the era of late modernity or postmodernity.
Cinematic tourism is a phenomenon connected to globalisation: not only does it presuppose particular forms of technological advancement (in old and new media), it also promotes tourist connectedness, cultural hybridisation as well as economic mergers and development. (Post)modernisation processes (including industrialisation, technological progress, automobilisation and urbanisation) enabled the growth of entertainment industry and international travel (Hudson & Ritchie, 2006b). At the same time, they suggested the convergence of tourist and media businesses located in different parts of the world and operating independently from each other. Let us not forget that not only do cinematic narratives tend to romanticise communities and landscapes, they are also themselves industrial products of the city, which is a major outcome of late modernity. Cinematic tourism builds on such romanticisations, disseminating particular ideas and practices to every part of the world.
As noted above, terminological precision determines emphasis in the content of academic studies. For example, Tzanelli (2004, 2007, 2013) prefers the term ‘cinematic tourism’ and ‘cinematic tourist’, arguing that these
Are not uniform conceptual tools, but theoretical models internally differentiated by the moves and motions of travel through and after film, as well as the cinematic production of travel and tourism.The Hollywood model of the tourist exists within cinematic texts, in the movies that we watch: it suggests ways of consuming places, enjoying and “investing in” (for educational purposes) our holiday time. At the same time, touring through cinematic images produces a second type of tourist who uses the power of imagination to explore the world. This version of the tourist corresponds to the movie viewer, who “reads” and consumes film. The surplus meaning of a film enables audiences to travel virtually, to experience the filmed locations at a distance: thus the impulse to visit these locations originates in the imaginary journey on the screen. A third version of the ‘cinematic tourist’ is created when a tourist industry is established in filmed locations, through the products that tourist industries offer when they exploit the film’s potential to induce tourism. There is also a fourth type of cinematic tourist that completes the imagined journey of movie watchers. This is the tourist in the flesh, who visits places because they appeared in films, and whose experience of travel may be influenced by film and the attractions that the tourist industry has to offer. The interdependency of these types is not fixed: filmed locations are also visited by tourists who never watched movies and watching a movie will not necessarily result in visiting the filmed place’ (Tzanelli 2007/2010: 2-3).
Tzanelli therefore builds a theoretical and analytical model that includes a variety of cinematic tourists such as
1. Cinematic actors/agents
2. Film characters
3. Film audiences
4. Web surfers of cinematic stories (for example, users and visitors of official film websites but also users of other tourist websites linked to the film that inspired tourist visits)
5. Visitors of filmed locations
She further explains that different types of tourism and tourists are condensed in ‘cinematic tourism’, and that not all of them are covered by the ‘film-induced tourism’ model.
• Representations and simulations of tourist mobilities within cinematic texts (heroes in film as tourists)
• The act and performance of film viewing and interpretation (by audiences)
• Virtual travels and constructions of ‘tourist’ online (web surfers for relevant films, Internet business)
• Film viewing that transforms into embodied visits of the cinematic stage (fans visiting filmed sites)
• Film acting and directing as part of model (location-hunting, embodied presence in filmed sites) (Tzanelli, Tourism and Culture SLSP2160, 2012)
This typology highlights the complexity of global cultural industries and the ways in which different industries (tourism, media and film) may converge. Such contingent, loose connections are termed ‘sign industries’ (Tzanelli 2004, 2007/2010) – that is, industries promoting business through groups of signs that acquire the same meaning (e.g. The Lord of the Rings (2001-3) cinematic trilogy or the Harry Potter Films) are connected and marketed in relation to particular places (New Zealand, England) and foster particular tourist rituals (e.g. visiting filmed sites, buying film and music products, or the original literature on which films are based as part of the cinematic myth). Hence, sign industries participate in the creation and modification of collective and individual imaginations (of film audiences and tourists, but also the filmed localities, nations and nation-states).
Tzanelli’s models of cinematic tourism and the sign industries are connected to John Urry’s (2002; Urry and Larsen 2011) conception of the ‘tourist gaze’, which is by turn inspired by Michel Foucault’s poststructuralism. For Urry there are systematic ways of ‘seeing’ tourist destinations that are rooted in Western occulocentric (= visually centred) practices, and which produce discourses of modernity. Hence, visual culture is for Urry essential for the construction of the tourist experience as much as it contributes to the maintenance and expansion of tourism as an organized system of leisure. Though Tzanelli regards the visual as essential component of cinematic tourist imaginations she also stresses the significance of other senses in the production of film (audiences and fans), virtual (web surfers) and actual (visitors of filmed locations) tourisms (see Tzanelli 2013).Her other emphasis on hyperreality, which is borrowed by Baudrillard’s conception of simulacra and simulation, is also shared with other sociologically orientated scholars, such as Stijn Reijnders (2011a & 2011b), who studied the multimedia character of tourism connected to blockbusters and popular films and TV series such as Inspector Morse, Dracula, The Lord of the Rings or The Da Vinci Code.
Other new research on cinematic or media tourism suggests that tourism institutions connected to national centres or regional and global business networks must pay closer attention to the rituals and practices of cinematic tourists: Peaslee (2010, 2011) investigated the experience of visitors to the ‘Hobbiton’ (Matamata) location site in New Zealand that was included in the production of The Lord of the Rings films. Peaslee, who stands between Tzanelli’s emphasis on media structures and tourist agency and Reijnder’s emphasis on tourist experiences, developed a thesis from Couldy’s (2003) work on media centres and bounded spaces that he applied to his fieldwork in New Zealand. After participant observation of several tours of the Hobbiton attraction and in-depth interviews with visitors and guides, he concluded that attitudes toward and behaviours within this tourist attraction are indicative of an embodied assent to a particular kind of media power. Tourists and tourist hosts in Hobbiton (Matamata) must be examined as actors responding to a repeating discursive structure that, by creating boundaries and sanctifying spaces, canalizes attitudes, behaviour, and movement.
‘Film-induced tourism’ demarcates a narrower subject area than ‘cinematic tourism’. Beeton’s (2005: 5-8) definition refers to the ways historically tourism borrowed from artistic uses of the picturesque (an idea originating in Seaton’s  analysis of visual media and tourism) and contemporary creation of tourist markers for the development of tourism in filmed sites (a comment originating in MacCannell’s  consideration of staged authenticity in tourist settings). Beeton is concerned about the impact of tourism can have on localities. She argues that ‘tourism carries with it the seeds of its own destruction’ (Beeton 2005: 12) because it can lead to environmental degradation and community disintegration. Debating the problem from a destination-marketing point of view, Beeton argues for organized and sustainable development strategies These preliminary observations are also relevant to Tzanelli’s ‘cinematic tourism’ model, but their empirical analyses differ, with Beeton being more geared towards marketing imperatives and less on critical theory. All the same, the study of both concepts is compatible rather than adversarial.
An example of film-induced tourism would be travelling to New Zealand because of the desire to see the movie sets and landscapes featured in The Lord of the Rings movies (Tzanelli 2004; Beeton 2005; Roesch 2009).Though early studies of this phenomenon highlighted the enhancement of memories of location and film experiences through associations with the films’ actors, events and setting (Riley & Van Doren, 1992), scholars did not examine actors and directors as ‘tourists’. Film-induced tourism was defined solely in terms of tourist visits to destination featured on television, video, or films (Beeton, 2005; Hudson & Ritchie, 2006a). Otherwise put, travellers in search of filmed sights are film-induced tourists (Butler, 1990; Busby & Klug, 2001). Butler (1990) suggested that ‘films can influence the travel preference of those who expose to the destination attributes and create a favourable destination image through their representation’ (Rewtrakunphaiboon, 2009: 2). Hence, film-induced tourism tends to focus on the ways marketing efforts and previous travel influence destination choice by rationalising individual decision-making processes (Iwashita, 2003; Iwashita, 2006). It is not coincidental that film-induced tourism is methodologically connected to social disciplines such as psychology that measure decision-making variables of less importance in disciplines such as sociology and anthropology, which focus on collective action.
Impacts, benefits and consequences
There is a stream of film-induced tourism studies that ascertain the impact of cinematic and digital cultures on people’s perceptions of place and culture. For example, O’Connor (2010) argues that since young people spend much of their leisure time watching TV or surfing the Internet, this exposure will have an impact on their perception of certain destinations. Sellgren (2011) also claimed that the movie Lost in Translation led to a positive image of Japan in the minds of the students who had participated in a discussion round about this movie. Such studies connect to earlier media theory that infers consequences from supposed causes (e.g. hypodermic model). In any case, they contribute less to understandings of collective social action and to tourism theory. A more amenable example is provided by Croy’s (2011) investigation of the role of film in broader tourist decision making, and the influence and management of this process. Croy (2011) highlights the use of film images to align potential tourists to the destination’s ideal image. Like others, he argues that films influence activities and routes when at the destination (Macionis and Sparks, 2009). Whereas he claims that films are incidental in the production of tourist industries, they are a tourist activity and contribute to regional economies (Croy and Buchmann, 2009).
The impact on regional and national economies and cultures is significant. As Tzanelli (2004; 2007: chapter 3; 2013: chapter 2) explains, not only did The Lord of the Rings revamp New Zealand’s cultural profile as the ‘New Middle Earth’ (rather than a peasant country, it also generated urban tourist and media traffic from the U.S. and the U.K. while strengthening the ties between New Zealand’s artistic leadership (LOTR director Peter Jackson) and other transnational artists (e.g. Guillermo del Toro’s involvement in the Hobbit trilogy) and creative urban centres (e.g. LA acting as a Hobbit media hub). In addition, (hosted) journalists’ reports on filming locations, and the well-known actors and directors prompted to report on their location experiences (Croy, 2011: 162). Generally, film-induced and cinematic tourism can revitalise regional/rural communities and increase tourism to urban centres, with Auckland as an example in point (Beeton 2005). An interest in the nation and its positive image can eventually lead to an actual visit to the country as is the case with the increased Japanese interest in touring the UK (Iwashita, 2006). In addition one may argue that cinematic tourism has become one of the all-weather attractions that counter problems of seasonality in the tourism industry, as is the case with some filmed Australian rural areas (Beeton, 2004).
The environmental benefits and problems connected to cinematic tourism are many. There is no doubt that film can act as a sort of knowledge repository for certain aspects of the country such as nature: the natural beauty of filmed landscapes increases the cultural value for the film location. However, especially protected natural destinations can be damaged by filming or be deemed to be ‘in danger’ of destruction. Whereas such fears are not always true, they can act as activist trigger that obstructs both the development of the filmed region and the reputation of the state to which this belongs. One such example is the film The Beach (2000, director Danny Boyle), which was used by Internet tourist providers for the promotion of Thailand as a travel destination. Various environmentalist groups highlighted that the adaptation became complicit in the advertising of the country as an ‘Edenic destination’ for
Westerners. This was achieved through the organisation of protests when 20th Century Fox
decided to ‘conform’ the area in which the movie was filmed (Phi Phi Leh of Krabi area) to
images of tropical tourist paradises. What was obscured in this case was the problematic political environment in which film industries had to operate: coerced to negotiate with a state that invited foreign capital but paid little attention to local development, not aware of the areas’ racist histories of migration, and assuming the role of stereotypical Western outsiders, resulted in their scapegoating by activists (Tzanelli, 2006). The events seemed to have acted as a learning experience for the artistic contingent, with Boyle especially becoming implicated in beneficial community development projects in the context of his later film, Slumdog Millionaire (2009).
It must be noted that, increasingly, artistic communities become implicated in such projects even independently from – if not against - any tourist imperatives. In search of interesting locales to photograph for the forthcoming film Avatar (2009, director James Cameron), computer generating image professionals stumbled upon the tribes of the Amazonian rainforest whose culture and livelihood face extinction due to a government-backed multibillion project to build the Belo Monte Dam. ‘Director Cameron, producer Jon Landau, and the crew joined forces with anthropologists, tribesmen, regional, and (trans)national activists to cancel these plans. […] Cameron himself appears in one open-access video —promotional of his relevant documentary—confessing that he always wanted to travel to Brazil’s virgin territories (A Message from Pandora, n.d.). Elsewhere, he is depicted amongst indigenous populations like Avatar’s soldier Jake or an ethnographic traveller-investigator, uncovering evidence of coordinated crimes against localities. Avatar actor Sigourney Weaver’s video adopts a humanitarian style (Amazon Watch, 2011), prompting viewers to sympathize with the cause.’ (Tzanelli 2013b: 2). Such initiatives clash with tourist growth of regions in the name of humanitarian or environmental causes – only this time, the architects are not the localities but artistic leaders.
Film tourism is a medium that communicates a wide range of cultural meanings and values tied to filmed lands and venerated national artefacts. There is no doubt that heritage sites serving as film locations gain popularity after the film (Busby & Klug, 2001). However, once a heritage site becomes part of the cinematic and tourist imaginary, conflicts may arise. ‘Heritage sites’ incorporated in films, include both tangible (architecture, monuments and museum artefacts) and intangible tokens (histories, literatures and ideas). Again, both localities and nation-states may react to such cultural ‘intrusions’ in varied ways. For example, the cinematic adaptation (2001) of Captain Corelli’sMandolin, a novel by Louis de Bernières, was met with various responses in the filmed places of the Greek island of Kefalonia (Tzanelli 2003; Tzanelli 2007/2010: chapter 4). Like the novel, the film was set against the historical background of the Greece’s Axis Occupation, ‘the operation of Greek Resistance, and civil strife between the Greek communist fighters of EAM/ELAS (National Liberation Front/Greek People’s Liberation Army) and anti-communist forces’ (Tzanelli 2003: 220). While generating instant tourist traffic, with Hollywood fans flocking in to see the filming and the actors, and also subsequent tourist visits to its beaches, its natural areas and the Second World War Memorial to the fallen Italian soldiers, local communist veterans felt offended by this commercialisation and the town of Sami responded negatively to the culture industry with protests and supplications to human rights institutions to ban this ‘plundering’ of heritage (also Tzanelli 2007/2010: chapter 4).
The response was different when My Life in Ruins/Driving Aphrodite (2009, director Donald Petrie) was shot in the Acropolis. ‘The idea of “hard bargaining” defined the actions of Greece’s powerful Archaeological Council (KAS) in 2006-7, when Greek-Canadian actress Vardalos managed to obtain permission to shoot her new comedy […] Since the 1960s, when the The Guns of Navarone and Zorba the Greek used Rhodes and Crete as backdrops, no major film was shot in the country. The fact that recent Hollywood blockbusters Troy, Alexander the Great and 300 (all related to Hellenic history) were filmed elsewhere has to do with Greek anti-Americanism dating back to the junta (1967-74) and the lack of tax alleviations the government was prepared to give to filmmakers. Yet, […] despite Greek warnings that no ancient stone should be moved and no cinematic enhancement should be made to the archaeological site, Vardalos’ enterprise was supported by the Ministers of Culture and Tourism and the Greek Film Centre whose website today proudly hosts photos of the shooting (see H.F.C.O. website)’ (Tzanelli, 2008; Tzanelli, 2013a: chapter 4).
The uses of tangible and intangible heritage in films that induce tourism inevitably tap on questions of propriety or even public morality, as is the case with The Da Vinci Code cinematic adaptation (2006, director Ron Howard) of Dan Brown’s novel. The film came to operate as a ‘node’ for European capitalist networks of corporeal and virtual travel, assisting in the production of a new type of commercialised ‘pilgrim’ that democratised tourism to old heritage sites in Europe (Tzanelli, 2010). There were however reactions to such trends both by the French public and even Catholic constituencies that objected to the uses of religion in the story (Tzanelli, 2013a: 63-93). Therefore, careful planning is necessary both for the selection of projected filmed landscapes and the granting of permissions to film them. The same caution applies to tourism business that capitalises on sich commercialised pilgrimages: for example, an ethnographic study of James Bond tourism by Reijnders (2010) suggests that such consumptions of cinematic plots might become interwoven with patriarchal notions of masculinity, as visiting filmed sites allows fans to embody glamorised understandings of manliness.
Sociological and anthropological studies of this intersection between tourism and cinema are work in progress. Graml (2004) has shown for example that the budding Sound of Music tourism in Austria in places such as Salzburg is treated with suspicion by locals who dissuade visitors from joining independent tours to filmed locations when in America Austrianness is defined by such films. While most Austrians presumably concede that Sound of Music tourism is important for the country’s GDP, they consider the film to be a typical product of Hollywood cinema that, unfortunately, manages to drown out the real Austrian heritage embodied by Mozart. In the Greek island of Skiathos that served together with the neighbouring Skopelos as the cinematic stage for the musical Mama Mia! (2008), there is an uneasy coexistence of local and national traditions and the tourism that is attached to them on the one hand, and postmodern simulations of the musical’s story on the other. Tzanelli (2011) suggests that this informs generational dissonance (with younger entrepreneurs more amenable to cinematic tourism) but also the ubiquitous disconnection of peripheral areas from the national centre that for structural reasons fails to support local development, allowing regional rivalries to grow. In this respect, ‘cinematic tourism’ is never limited to academic and scholarly scrutiny but informs practices and policies of national and transnational institutions such as UNESCO.
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