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Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes

Film and tourism: the imagined place and the place of the imagined
Rafael Pires Basáñez Hadyn Ingram
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Rafael Pires Basáñez Hadyn Ingram, (2013),"Film and tourism: the imagined place and the place of the imagined",
Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Vol. 5 Iss 1 pp. 39 - 54
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Film and tourism

Film and tourism: the imagined
place and the place of the
Rafael Pires Basáñez
The Travellers Club, London, UK, and
Hadyn Ingram
London School of Commerce, London, UK

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to consider how film can induce image, both individually and
collectively. In particular, the psychological drivers of film are explored and how these may impact on
tourism visitation. The impacts of film and cinema are explored, as is the relationship between
tourists’ motivation and purchase behaviour.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors review the limited literature on the subject, seeking
commonalities and resonances between film and tourism. A focus group is used to develop a
perceptual map with which to better understand the phenomenon and a questionnaire was conducted
to research attitudes towards film and propensity towards film-induced behaviour.
Findings – The paper suggests that there are commonalities between film and tourism and that film
can evoke powerful and long-lasting images with the viewer, thus creating marketing opportunities for
destination marketing organisations (DMOs).
Practical implications – With greater understanding of the nature and power of filmic image, it is
hoped that tourism DMOs may develop more effective strategies for attracting visitors to destinations.
Originality/value – Research in this topic is very limited and, as far as the authors are aware, there
is nothing which adopts an in-depth approach on the nature and application of film-induced tourism.
Keywords Film, Tourism, Marketing, Consumer behaviour, Film-induced tourism,
Destination marketing, Destination marketing organizations
Paper type Research paper

Tourism behaviour is affected by myriad influences, some of which are more obvious
than others. Goeldner and Ritchie (2009) suggest that tourism is an interdisciplinary
area that relates to sociology, leisure, sports, economy, technology and many others.
This study aims at providing a further understanding of tourism and factors with
which it maintains continually-enriching interactions, in this case, film and cinema.
In contemporary society, access to films is becoming increasingly easier, either by
going to the cinema, visiting a video-rental store, or even watching online. Cinema
brings to people what they want in their lives: love, emotion, extravagance, adventure,
seduction, even eroticism. It is possible to temporarily lose oneself for a few hours and
to be drawn into a fictional story. As with tourism, people need to put aside their
routines, at least for a period to allow them to relax and restructure (Krippendorf, 1987). Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism
It is possible to categorise films that affect tourism into four types: Vol. 5 No. 1, 2013
pp. 39-54
(1) animated films; q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
(2) documentaries; DOI 10.1108/17554211311292439
WHATT (3) motion-pictures made from original stories; and
5,1 (4) films that are based on novels, people or historical events.

Each may have a different effect on the film-induced tourist.

Featherstone (2007, p. 22) posits that film creates a pseudo reality which can be
exploited by various media through advertising or promotional artifices used in
40 persuasion in order to influence consumption of products, for instance holidays.
Therefore, it is of vital importance to understand how images are imagined and of how
places created by films are perceived by the film spectator (potential tourist), as the
imagery tends to impact on the tourist decision making (Aziz and Zainol, 2011).
This paper explores the relationship between film and tourism and, in particular,
how film can induce positive and negative images of tourism and destinations. The
structure is as follows:
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(1) Methodology.
(2) Limitations.
(3) Definitions.
(4) Literature review.
(5) Research findings and analysis.
(6) Summary of results.
(7) Conclusions.
(8) Recommendations.
(9) Discussion.
(10) Further research.

1. Methodology
The study used sequential mixed methods approach (Morse and Niehaus, 2009) to
provide an increasing depth of understanding to this under-researched phenomenon.
Initially, a focus group provided an exploratory insight into attitudes and behaviours
towards decision making, image perception and images created by films and promotional
tools used to induce tourism. The outcome of this focus group was a perceptual map
aimed at increasing understanding of the phenomenon. Subsequently, a face-to-face
survey questionnaire addressed the connection between film spectator and destination
shown on film, the different motivations for film tourism and the relation between the
tourism cinema, image, motivation, decision-making and marketing communication tools.
In this way, the methodology used causal research (Wilson, 2006) to provide
inferential evidence and descriptive research (Veal, 2011) to develop further
explanatory description of comparisons that the causal cannot answer.

2. Limitations
Because this area of study is still in its infancy, there is not enough appropriate
material to cast definitive light on the subject. However, this study collected
information from many sources different in order to create an original, exploratory
study of this phenomenon, but at the same time being careful not to postulate
unrealistic theory.
3. Definitions Film and tourism
According to Beeton (2005, p. 11) film-induced tourism can be defined as the “visitation
to sites where movies and TV programmes have been filmed as well as to tours to
production studios, including film-related theme parks”. There is a considerable
amount of dedicated study confirming that films generate demand for tourism (Beeton,
2005; Jones and Smith, 2005; Boland and Williams, 2008; Tzanelli, 2007; Roesch, 2009;
O’Connor and Macionis, 2011; and Hudson et al., 2011) mostly mentioning the Lord of 41
the Rings film trilogy (2001-2003), filmed in New Zealand, and that still manages to
attract visitors to the country. However no studies have focused on the psychological
relationship between film and its spectators and their motivations to travel, thus
impacting on their decision-making. This work also aims at answering some of these
unanswered questions.
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4. Literature review
The literature review is structured in the following way:
film and cinema: provides the background to the medium;
film and tourism: looks at the relationship between the two; and
tourism promotion through film: considers how tourism might be marketed
through film.

4.1 Film and cinema

Film technology was developed by Antoine Lumière and Clément-Maurice in the last
decade of the nineteenth century. Gastal (1999) suggests that the Lumière brothers are
considered the actual inventors of the cinema, since some of the other contender
inventions did not have enough impact or influence, or failed to excel. The audience for
a movie can be analysed in many different ways, whether economic, statistical or
sociological (Aumont et al., 1992). This study focuses on the relationship between the
cinema-spectator as an individual and the film as a psychological experience. Benjamin
(in Jennings et al., 2008, p. 38) recognises that film has a therapeutic power to militate
against “sadistic fantasies or masochistic delusions”. Thanks to a wide range of genres
(horror, adventure, romance) the spectator, through the protagonist, opens up to feel, to
experience fear of death and destruction or love and admiration.
Münsterberg (1970) formulates the conception of cinema as a mental process, as the
“art of the spirit”, developing it in four steps of depth and movement, attention,
memory and imagination and emotions. Although not real, these can powerfully affect
emotions, perception and image. Films act as a mirror in which the viewer can identify
with the actor(s) and this can stir the emotions and leave a lasting impression. This
relates to tourism, in which there is also a withdrawal from the real world, and this is
pleasurable and desirable to people.
In summary, like tourism, film offers occupies a space between dreams in reality in
which the viewer (tourist) can experience in a state of momentary joy, which can affect
perceptions and future behaviour.

4.2 Film and tourism

According to Eisenstein (in Andrew, 2002) film is not a product but a creative process
organically unveiled and this can be compared to the spectator/tourist who participates
WHATT in the film/trip emotionally as well as intellectually. Therefore tourism may not be
5,1 about selling a destination, but about the experience obtained from visiting it. It may
be suggested that, both film and tourism have several different interpretations. This is
due to the complexity of life, where nothing is absolute and all is related to objects
(Betton, 1987), where the spectator and the tourist draw their interpretations and
feelings in whichever way they want from their cinematic experience.
42 Theobald (2001, p. 15) suggests that the human being is essentially a nomad,
“travelling for purposes of trade, religious conviction, economic gain, war”. As shown
in Table I, the technological development of film is linked to the wider participation in
tourism through steam travel and the emergence of the package holiday.
De La Torre Padilla (1994) defines tourism as a social phenomenon consisting of the
voluntary and temporary displacement of individuals or group of people that,
fundamentally, for the means of recreation, rest, health, or culture, leave their place of
habitual residence to another, where they do not engage in any remunerated activity,
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thus generating important social, economic and cultural inter-relations. This

displacement proposed by de la Torre Padilla can be either in the territory of the real
as in the territory of the imaginary, as Urry (2002, p. 3) suggests, that “tourism involves
the collection of signs. When tourists see two people kissing in Paris what they capture in
the gaze is “timeless romantic Paris” and this also happens in the movies. The same
example can be applied to cinema, with the film view replacing the tourist.
Urry (2002, p. 14) argues that “tourism necessarily involves daydreaming and
anticipation of new or different experiences”, and films are a great source for new
adventures to be experienced, not just in the visual world, but also on the real world.
Further, Campbell (in Urry, 2002, p. 13) mentions that tourists “do not seek satisfaction
from products, from their actual selection, purchase and actual use. Rather the
satisfaction stems from the anticipation, from imaginative pleasure seeking”.
Therefore, the spectator may like to experience these customs and symbols shown
in films and in real life, and this may involve travelling to these places.
In summary, it can be concluded that, throughout history cinema and tourism are
inter-related, each affecting the other’s development.

4.3 Tourism promotion through film

Cooper et al. (2008) propose that the psychological factors (attitudes, perceptions,
motivation and image) that affect decision making are connected to consumer
behaviour. Goffman (in Cooper et al., 2008) suggests that this happens because every
person is different from the other, as well as actors on and off screen, stage, their
performances vary according to the nature and context of the activity.
Krippendorf (1987) argues that people live in a contradictory world where there is a
need for balance to avoid stress, deprivation or illness. People seek to escape and to be
“taken out of themselves”. Escapism can provide a sort of freedom from the humdrum
and people need to flee to recompose, so that they can get back to their daily routine
(Suvantola, 2002). Leisure activities, such as film and tourism can have a therapeutic
effect and are a source of potential pleasure.
Krippendorf (1987, p. 25) regards tourism as a “safety valve for letting off steam, a
drug (as socially acceptable as aspirin) which temporarily kills the pain, but does
nothing to cure the disease itself”. Thus, tourism, like film, is a sought-after-activity in
modern society.
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Demand for Inns and Lengthy educational “First family hotel” in Steam transport origins Development of roads Invention
hospitality taverns trips First travel guides London Grand Tour Thomas Cook 1st excursion Invention of automobiles of planes
Roman Circa Early
6th century Empire Renaissance 1650 1700s Early 1800 Late 1800s 1900

Magic Magic lanterns part of Travel

lantern Camera obscura museum’s programs Invention of cinema films
Film and tourism

History of tourism and

Table I.
WHATT Roecklein (2004, pp. 2-3) places image in the discipline of psychology and defines it as
5,1 “mental idea that is taken as being observed by the ’eye of the mind’. This study
defines film tourism image as “the mental and visual idea that is originated from the
collection of symbols, signs, beliefs, ideas and impressions that films projects from
Aumont (1997, p. 54) proposes three elements of image:
44 (1) symbolic image: images as symbols, representing religious idols, brand logos or
public images of attractions;
(2) epistemic image: road maps, postcards, travel films, portraits of landscape; they
are all images providing different interpretations to the perceiver; and
(3) aesthetic image: which produce sensations on the reader; for example the
architecture of buildings, monuments, parks and piazzas.
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Castrogiovanni and Gastal (1999) contend that the creation of an image is the result of
an interactive process between the observer and the observed. Although personally
perceived, they suggest that there is a public image – a trademark – an image that is
seen by everyone in the same way. These images are often packaged as consumer
products or brands. This means that important tourist destinations, such as the statue
of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Big Ben in London or the Coliseum in Rome
are depicted in t-shirts, postcards at souvenir shops or background scenes in films.
This non-verbal reading is a photographic reading, generated by the mass media
and especially through the electronic media where speed dictates the pace of reading.
Local images reproduced and transmitted in films “promote a ‘blurring of borders
between art and everyday life” (Featherstone, 2007, p. 22), thus creating a pseudo
reality. This pseudo reality created by the films is exploited by various media through
marketing and its promotional artifices used in persuasion in order to influence the
consumption of products, for example, a holiday.
Often, satisfaction arises from expectation of seeking a pleasure, which lies in
imagination. People seek to experience real life pleasant dramas that have once already
experienced in their imagination.
Cinema has the power to store and transmit a large amount of information
(McLuhan, 1964). This information, the stories, is lodged in human conscious,
constructing an imagined repository of perceptions, which the English fiction writer
Julian Barnes calls a “myth kitty”.
Avellar and Imagem (1982) argues that this information is retained in the mind for
some unknown reason, a feeling that awakens in people, sometimes without being
aware of it. Thus, influencing people’s lives and the choices they make for themselves.
Thus, the pseudo reality of film can evoke powerful and lasting images.
Ruschmann (2001) suggests that motion pictures are very important for the
exposure of tourism products, because the image may lead to an interest in knowing
personally what was seen on the screen.
In summary, the literature concludes that there are similarities between film and
tourism, as both are:
developed and proliferated at the middle and end of the nineteenth century;
social phenomena, shared with others;
powerful and long-lasting; Film and tourism
desirable and sought-after;
dream-like, taking the participant outside of themselves;
. opportunities for adventures and freedom from the quotidian humdrum; and
able to create non-verbal images.
The appropriate use of image and imagery is important in tourism promotion.
According to Featherstone (2007) today’s culture uses images, signs and symbolic
goods to evoke dreams, wishes and fantasies that suggest authentic romance and
emotional fulfilment of the self, in a narcissistic and egotistical way. People want to
indulge their needs generated by the stress caused by the world, and that almost
obliges the individual to be always happy and for this to happen, he or she has to
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5. Research findings and analysis

This chapter presents the findings from two sources:
(1) a focus group of four attendees for which the aim was to develop a perceptual
map of image, motivation and decision-making; and
(2) a questionnaire of 200 respondents which provided quantitative data about the
nature of cinema tourism and propensity to visit filmed destinations.

5.1 Focus group

Although limited in participants, the in-depth discussions of the focus group were
useful in exploring perceptions. The group felt that film tourism is not the main reason
people might go on holidays and visit places seen on films. Nevertheless, film can
indeed create an initial desire of travelling to a destination; however, because people
tend to watch films quite often, they are overdosed with images of different places from
many different parts of the world, thus making the choice more difficult.
“Cinephiles”, or film fanatics, are the most likely people to visit a place seen in a film,
without the need for further film-induced promotional campaigns. Alternatively,
people who only watch films to escape boredom, recover from a stressful day, or
simply for entertainment, might go on specific film tours, such as Harry Potter or Sex
in the City walks, while they are already at their holiday destinations. When asked
about motivations to travel in general, the respondents of the focus group, agreed that
to relax, rest, or break from work, and to explore other cultures are the main reasons for
In summary, film can induce tourism interest, but is this something that happens in
the individual’s subconscious, rather than causing the main reason to travel? Large
cities commonly seen in films are already major tourist destinations, however when
people recognise film locations in these places, they can get excited.
The responses of the focus group helped to build on the literature and develop a
perceptual map shown in Figure 1. Image is affected by motivation and decision-making
by promotional tools. Image-motivation and decision-making-promotional tools are
mapped in quadrants A, B, C and D.

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Figure 1.
Perceptual map

Quadrant A: the nature of image and how decision-making can be influenced by
scenery, culture and the destination.
Quadrant B: how decision-making might be triggered by different
leisure-orientated motivations.
Quadrant C: types of promotional tools, which can evoke image.
Quadrant D: ways in which promotional tools might engage with the viewer.

The perceptual map created can help DMOs to understand and identify some of the
factors relevant to a successful development of film tourism promotion strategies.

5.2 Questionnaire analysis

The questionnaires explored the following issues:
frequency of film watching;
importance of film to tourism;
consumer behaviour intentions;
. motivation to visit;
describing destinations; and
promotional tools.

5.2.1 Frequency of film watching. Of the 200 people interviewed, only 7 (3.5 per cent)
responded that they do not watch films. As shown in Figure 2, the majority (36 per
cent) of them watch films “more than once a week”, while 20 per cent who watch films
“once a month” and 18 per cent watch “five times or more a month”.
5.2.2 Importance of films to tourism. Respondents were asked to respond to three
Film and tourism


Figure 2.
Frequency of watching
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(1) films are very important to the development of tourism;

(2) towns, cities and rural places depicted in movies can be developed into tourist
destinations more easily than those that are not; and
(3) film induces tourism through images that they depict of places.

The majority of the respondents (over 100 people) simply agreed with the statements,
as shown in Figure 3. The third statement is the one that raised mostly disagreements
in comparison to the other statements; perhaps because the adverb “very” in the
sentence seemed too strong, however, they agreed that films indeed are important for
the development of tourism.

Figure 3.
Statement agreements
WHATT 5.2.3 Consumer behaviour intentions. As seen in Figure 4, 59 per cent of the
5,1 respondents had not travelled to a place where it served as location for a film. The data
suggest that women would be more likely to visit a filmed location than men. However,
on a research that was undertaken by Visit Britain (2007) (online), shows “that 40 per
cent of potential visitors would be ’very likely’ to visit places from films”. This research
underpins other studies by VisitBritain by showing that 41 per cent of the respondents
48 have already visited a location that served as film location. Respondents were also
asked which particular film location they would most like to visit, and the most
popular choices were New York and the USA.
5.2.4 Motivation to visit. Respondents were asked which of seven categories, most
motivated them to visit a filmed destination. The results of this research on motivation
underpins what has been highlighted by McLuhan (1964) that motion pictures are a
great source of information, teaching people new customs, traditions and symbols. As
shown in Figure 5, respondents want to experience the culture of those locations seen
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on films, with culture being the main motivation factor chosen by respondents. This

Figure 4.
Main film locations to visit

Figure 5.
Motivation for
film-induced travel
was followed by fun and entertainment, change of activity and geographical location Film and tourism
and psychological and physical factors which complements each other; people seek
evasion in order to “recharge their batteries” and give reason to their lives.
5.2.5 Describing destinations. Participants were asked to use adjectives to describe a
destination for the most recent film they had watched. The responses underpin the
contention that the scenery is vital to the connection between the film spectator and the
decision to choose a destination to travel. When the respondents were asked to provide 49
adjectives to describe the perceived image that they hold of a place seen in a film, most
adjectives provided are related to the natural beauty of the scenery, such as “scenic”,
“beautiful”, “nice”, “interesting”, “peaceful” and “relaxed”. Historic and cultural
adjectives can therefore be linked to cultural motivators.
5.2.6 Promotional tools. When asked about the importance of brochures, leaflets and
advertising in deciding on a holiday, 66 per cent of the respondents believed that they
are important or very important.
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Figure 6 shows that a large majority of the respondents (80 per cent) did not
remember seeing a film-induced tourism promotional tool. The reasons for that could
be that there are not many such promotional tools being made. Perhaps DMOs are not
fully aware of the importance of films in attracting tourists or maybe because the
respondents were not looking for those sort of brochures or leaflets.

6. Summary of results
The data reinforce the view that watching films is still a popular leisure activity, with
high participation rates. Most respondents agree that films are important to tourism
and destination development. However, this image perception does not necessarily lead
to visiting a filmed destination, with women more likely to do this than men. If they are
motivated to visit a filmed destination, the most popular reason was because of the
culture, and this suggests that is because of “difference” from their own environment.
Respondents also liked scenery and it may be concluded that the beauty of landscape
promotes positive image. A large majority of the sample believed that promotional
tools are important, but did not remember seeing a film-induced tourism promotional
tool, perhaps because they were not actively looking for them.

Figure 6.
Promotional tools – level
of importance
WHATT 7. Conclusion
5,1 This paper has explored the scantily-researched relationship between tourism and
film. The literature recognises that both film and tourism share similarities of nature
and are desirable, inspirational and powerful phenomena, which can create non-verbal
images. Thus, imagery can in tourism promotion to evoke dreams and the emotional
fulfilment of the self. The study has developed a perceptual map to show how image
50 and motivation links with decision-making and promotional tools.
The overwhelming majority (96.5 per cent) of the sampled population said that they
watched films. Most agreed that films were very important to the development of
tourism, however 59 per cent had not travelled to a filmed location. Scenery and
landscape seem to evoke the most powerful images and two-thirds believed that
promotional tools are important or very important. To experience new cultures was
seen as the strongest motivation to travel.
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8. Recommendations
Gunn (1972) proposes a seven-step process of image involvement in tourism, which can
be adapted to show the process of film-induced tourism.
As shown in Figure 7, film induced tourism can follow these seven stages:
(1) Accumulation: a watched film creates images, which are compared with
previous images of the same location.
(2) Modification: the actors, landscape and the story can help the viewer to identify
with the film.
(3) Decision: powerfully-perceived images, when triggered by need, money and
time can tip the decision to travel to the filmed destination.

Figure 7.
The process of
film-induced tourism
(4) Travel to destination: a time of excitement when the imagined dream becomes a Film and tourism
(5) Participation: enjoying the destination and the image is confirmed or
disconfirmed by the reality.
(6) Return travel: the evaluation of the participation will be reflected in level of
satisfaction with the visit. Reviewing photos or watching the film again will 51
strengthen satisfaction and may lead to return visitation.
(7) New accumulation: watching new films will contribute to the viewer’s “image
store”, thus triggering new possibilities for future visitation.

Table II demonstrates how different promotional activities can be used at different

stages of the film-induced tourism image development framework.
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Film-induced tourism Brand communication

Promotional activity Description image process process

Advertisement Television, radio Modification Awareness

magazines, Decision Comprehension
newspapers, outdoors, Travel to attraction Attitude
cinema Participation Satisfaction
Return Action
New accumulation Migration
Exhibitions Film festivals, tourism Modification Awareness
exhibitions Decision Comprehension
Sales literature Brochures, leaflets Modification Awareness
Decision Comprehension
Travel to attraction Attitude
Participation Satisfaction
Return Action
New accumulation Migration
Public relations Propaganda, product Accumulation Unawareness
placement Modification Awareness
New accumulation Migration
Sales promotion Incentives to use Accumulation Unawareness
destination as film Modification Awareness
location, familiarisation Decision Comprehension
trips New accumulation Migration
Point-of-sale displays Places used as film Participation Satisfaction
and merchandising location, airports, Return Action
hotels, parks New accumulation Migration
E-marketing Social network, e-mail, Modification Awareness
website, mobile Decision Comprehension
applications, online Travel to attraction Attitude
advertisement Participation Satisfaction Table II.
Return Action Promoting film-induced
New accumulation Migration tourism
WHATT Each promotional tool can carry more than one type of message and the use of
5,1 integrated marketing communications will allow building stronger brand equity
(Keller et al., 2008). However, at any point the film spectator can move from the
accumulation stage to any other stage without the need of further promotional
message, this is because, psychologically, individuals are different from each other.

52 9. Discussion
It may be suggested that not all DMOs are fully aware of the importance of films in
increasing the traffic of visitors. As the study shows, scenery is the most important
reason to visit a destination seen in a film, and destinations should work in
maintaining the natural beauty of those places by making important investment in
planning and design, in order to maintain an attractive image, which is vital for the
enticement of visitors. As suggested by Kotler et al. (1993, p. 37) “a place’s image must
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be valid and communicated in many ways through several channels if it is to succeed

and take root”. Therefore it is of vital importance to understand how images and the
imagined of places created by films are perceived by the film spectator (potential
tourist) so DMOs can create appropriate promotion campaigns in order to attract
visitors, as the imagery tends to impact on tourist decision-making (Aziz and Zainol,
2011). Promotional tools such as advertisements, leaflets and brochures are important
for the tourist, they are therefore, also vital for promoting film tourism, in order to
promote destinations as film sets. If DMOs knew how to work with the resources
generated by films, they could create better strategies for attracting visitors to their
cities. However, this strategy should also consider social and economic sustainability,
in order to provide better conditions for the tourist, as well as for the local population.
Advertisements of all types may be said to be like films, in that they convey a
photographic image and are aimed at generating desire for consumption. Perhaps
film-induced adverts should try and capture images of scenery, film plot, actors, and
address escapism and culture, in which the potential tourist is a valued and welcome
It is a difficult, but important task to try and capture images and the imagined in
film, but the study shows that film is and enduringly popular activity. Film can create
strong mental images and has the power to turn powerful pseudo-realities into actual
realities: to make dreams come true.

10. Further research

As there is little previous research in this field, this study has been an exploratory one.
Future research might categorise and further investigate film-induced tourism in the
following way:
. documentaries;
original fictional motion-pictures; and
films based on a novel, person or historical events.

Methodologies might include in-depth interviews, increased numbers of questionnaire

respondents, more focus groups and visual analysis. These could improve the
understanding of the film-induced tourism phenomenon explored in this paper.
References Film and tourism
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Further reading
Creswell, J.W. (2009), Research Design, Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods
Approaches, 3rd ed., Sage, London.

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