Having your city or neighborhood featured in a movie, TV series or book can bring a sense of pride—even some residual acclaim—to the people who live there.

A new report from Skift confirms that status can also draw tourists, bringing a direct boost to the local travel industry.

Whether it’s the spectacular backdrops or a connection to their favorite stories, people are drawn to follow in the footsteps of their favorite characters. New Zealand has developed a booming business around first the “Lord of the Rings” franchise and now “The Hobbit”, as evidenced by painted airplanes and the recently-launched “Book of New Zealand”.

But your efforts don’t need to be quite so epic. In their report, “The Rise of Destination Marketing Through Movies and TV”, Skift cites a number of examples from the past few decades–including some you might not expect.

  • The Hunger Games” was partly filmed in Dupont State Recreational Forest in North Carolina, a big-screen promo that drew a 31% year-over-year increase in visitors in 2012.
  • 9,500 people visited Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland, in 2003—the year the book “The Da Vinci Code”, which includes the chapel as part of the adventure, was published. When the related movie was released in 2006, visits skyrocketed to nearly 139,000.
  • The popularity of “Miami Vice” among Germans alone drew 150% more German travelers each year to Miami between 1985 and 1988.

“In 2012, Tourism Competitive Intelligence found that 40 million international tourists chose their destination primarily because they saw a film shot in that country,” the report observes. “Up to 10 percent of tourists in the survey cite movies as a factor in deciding on their destination.”

Linking your marketing to pop culture

"Signs" on flickr, by Kathy McGraw (CC BY 2.0)
You don’t need to put yourself in the middle of fan-fueled pandemonium to take advantage of a Hollywood connection. For many people, just having context can create a clear impression—the “Oh, I remember that movie!” effect.

But it’s also an opportunity to tap into someone else’s marketing efforts to promote your area to a particular niche group of travelers—and position your vacation rental as the place to stay while they do their exploring.

Connect people to information that’s already available. Locations for particularly popular stories may already have a lot of information available, so there’s no need to create your own.

For example: Forks, Washington (location of the “Twilight” trilogy, written by Stephenie Meyer) and Prince Edward Island (home to “Anne of Green Gables”, by L.M. Montgomery) have both created websites, maps and other materials for flocking fans.

Echoes some of the advice we’ve previously shared about growing your website, you can add information about local hotspots—with your own local insights—to

  • a section in your local guide
  • your blog, through one or more blog posts
  • your directory of local links
  • your collection of promotional photos

Consider using it as a promotional hook. Be careful about using protected titles and images too liberally; taking your own photos of public locations is OK, for example, but grabbing screenshots from a movie (even if you find them on Google) is not. However, with some creativity you can tap into someone else’s marketing machines.

  • Does a local business offer location tours? Team up with them and put together a special “fan package” promotion.
  • Target your Facebook marketing. Facebook’s advertising program allows you to be very specific with your targeting—right down to people who like specific movies, shows or books. If your vacation rental is located in Scranton, PA, for example, you could target an ad to fans of “The Office”—3,500 of whom have already visited the city because of the show.

Has pop culture ever taken your community by storm? Tell us what happened–and what you learned from it—in the comments below.