Director’s cut: Which destinations have generated the most income from film tourism?

If you could step into the world of your favorite film or television series, would you?

Most of us would jump at the chance, and many do. 

You wouldn’t believe the number of requests we receive from guests wanting to visit “King’s Landing” from Game of Thrones. And whilst we can’t take them to the Seven Kingdoms, we can – and do – take them to where it was filmed in Dubrovnik.

But this put our thoughts into motion. What countries around the world have benefitted the most from this type of tourism?

We decided to find out which stand-alone films generated the most money for their main filming location and exactly how much income visiting movie-buffs brought in.

And the results are in… Lights, camera, action!

8. Skellig Michael, Ireland: Star Wars - $4.5 million USD

Ireland certainly felt the force of being the filming location of two Star Wars films, with over $4.5 million USD being generated for the local economy. The movie featured Skellig Michael as Luke Skywalker’s island sanctuary and Tourism Ireland has revealed that it “will continue to maximise the Star Wars connection”. And rightly so. The tourism board reported an increase in aspiring Jedis visiting after Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released in 2015 with a 13% increase in overseas tourists the following year.

7. Kho Phi Phi Leh, Thailand: The Beach - $13 million USD

Danny Boyles’ 2000 film adaptation of the best-selling book, The Beach, tells the tale of American backpacker Richard (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) travelling around Thailand. Whilst The Beach is by no means a tourism promotional film, the footage of Maya Bay, where the breathtaking beach scenes were filmed, is thought to have injected $13 million dollars into the Thai economy. In a bid to preserve its beauty, the Government actually ended up closing the beach to tourists in 2018 when, at the peak of popularity, as many as 6000 people were visiting the Phi Phi Islands’ beach each day.

6. Forks, Washington, US. Twilight Series - $46.2 million USD

Stephenie Meyer’s cult fantasy saga has not only shone a light on Folks in Washington, but it has also generated around $46.2 million dollars for the small town. The young adult franchise sees teenager Bella Swan and heartthrob vampire Edward Cullen fall in love at Forks High School, which is now a main tourist attraction in the 3,000-person town along with Bella’s truck, the diner, and Charlie’s house. 

5. Stirling, Scotland. Braveheart - $47 million USD

Braveheart might be known to many for the iconic scene where Mel Gibson, with his face painted blue and white, screams that “they’ll never take our freedom”, but to Stirling in Scotland, it is iconic for an entirely different reason. The oscar-winning movie is iconic for generating more than $47 million dollars for the medieval city. 

The 1995 film is based on William Wallace defeating the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, the site of which is located in the Scottish city. A survey undertaken by Stirling District Tourism found that 35% of participants identified Braveheart as the reason for visiting the William Wallace Monument, which itself was opened in 1869.

4. Albuquerque, New Mexico, US. Breaking Bad - $70 million USD

Despite being a crime drama centered around crystal meth, Alburquerque had its reputation enhanced by the story of a drug-dealing teacher with cancer. After Breaking Bad aired its final episode in 2013, New Mexico was consequently featured in ABTA’s ‘top 10 holiday trends for 2014’, with the trade association playing on the drama’s part in pushing it up the tourist agenda. 

Bryan Cranston, who played Walter White in the series, said that “Albuquerque itself has become a character in our show” and “A sound, solid place that not many people have related to. They’ve seen Los Angeles, they’ve seen New York, but they haven’t really seen Albuquerque and New Mexico!”. Although many have now, with the series bringing in around $70 million dollars to the town through tourism.

3. Dubrovnik, Croatia. Game of Thrones - $203 million USD

Taking the TV series crown is Game of Thrones’ income for Croatia’s much-loved tourist hotspot, Dubrovnik. According to a study from the University of Zadar, the HBO fantasy drama brought in around $203 million dollars into Croatia between 2013 and 2018. 

As you walk through the streets of Dubrovnik, you immediately recognize the cobblestone roads and gothic architecture as King’s Landing. For those who want to snap some selfies in particularly iconic spots, head to the Old Town neighborhood or the Walls of Dubrovnik, where members of the Lannister family spent much of the series brooding.

2. Waikato, New Zealand. The Hobbit - $1.6 billion USD

Peter Jackson’s two-part epic fantasy contributed a cool $1.6 billion dollars to New Zealand’s film industry in 2011 alone, according to the Guardian. The movie set of Hobbiton, a 5.5-hectare site on a family-run sheep farm in the northern Waikato region, has become a permanent tourist attraction with daily guided tours that now welcome over million people each year.

1. London, England. Harry Potter Series - $5.3 billion USD

And, in first place is… J K Rowling’s spellbinding franchise. Harry Potter has had a magical impact on its main filming location, London, and is thought to have generated around $5.3 billion dollars for the city’s economy, according to the BBC. The stories have captivated people for over a decade, with Leadenhall Market and King’s Cross station being locations where fans flock to reminisce over scenes from the films. Further north, Northumberland’s Alnwick Castle – the set of Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films – has also benefitted from the sorcery, with visitor numbers levitating by 230 per cent after the last film aired in 2011.

So, for self-confessed film fanatics, or those who just enjoy a good movie, visiting the filming locations of your favourite film or TV series is an extraordinary experience. Knowing that you are in the same place your favorite actor once stood, or where your favorite scene was filmed, is incredible – as is knowing that you’re helping to boost the local economy.

 

Full source list available on request.