I can say with a high degree of certainty that I wouldn’t be writing articles like this one if it wasn’t for television shows and movies about Europe.
Back in the mid-2000s, while I had a vague sense of wanting to see the world someday, I also had no plans in the works whatsoever.
Then I discovered a handful of travelogues, one iconic reality competition and a few movies based in Europe and things escalated rather quickly.
I still didn’t own a passport, but I soon had a Tivo (remember those?) stacked with shows like Passport to Europe, The Amazing Race and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and movies like Love Actually & Ocean’s 12.
In a matter of months, the wick of my wanderlust was lit and a decision had been made on where I needed to go first to dip my toe into this whole “traveling the world” thing: Europe.
The rest, as they say, is history.
And I’m not alone, not by a long shot. As many articles and academic studies on the matter have concluded, TV shows and movies are a massive driver of interest in European travel.
Naturally, these TV shows and movies can be an invaluable starting point and sales tool for travel advisors, so I got in touch with travel advisors all across the country for their thoughts on the subject.
Becky Lukovic, Travel Advisor and Owner of Bella Travel Planning, explained some of this phenomenon’s appeal when she said “Movies and TV give a slice of how a ‘real’ person interacts with a destination aside from the usual tourist track. When we watch characters on the screen, we put ourselves in their place and look at the destination through their eyes. It can catapult a destination from 3rd or 5th on a wander list to We Must Go There Now status.”
Madeline Steuber of the Steuber Travel Group (an affiliate of Jetset World Travel) added “Television shows that capture culture, history, and scenery that is so different from our every day, moves people to get outside their comfort zone and see the world. Film, music, and art have had such a wonderful impact on the travel industry—they truly go hand in hand.”
And in regards to the degree that television and movies have impacted travelers’ trips to Europe, Gloria Hobbins, Owner/President, Global Village Travels told me “I very seldom sell your generic trip to Europe and the U.K.”
Of course, this phenomenon is always evolving as new shows and movies are released and bubble up to the forefront of travelers’ minds while older shows fade from the top of travelers’ minds.
With so many new shows and movies coming out seemingly every day on every streaming platform, which ones are moving the needle when it comes to moving travelers to book trips to Europe in 2023? Which ones have stood the test of time?
The following are a few of the biggest takeaways from my conversations:
The Hills Are Still Alive With Sound of Music Lovers
The classic Julie Andrews film came up multiple times, with Ronda Helton, Luxury Travel Designer and Owner, The Travel Connection Group providing one of the most moving odes to the power of the film when she detailed the following story:
“My personal favorite ‘movie-themed trip was for an amazing family that SOM was on their bucket list. When the client sent me a text of herself dancing in the hills with the beautiful green grass, I ‘might’ have had a tear in my eye. It was hilarious and beautiful at the same time. Their private guide even took them to pick flowers before heading out into the field.”
The White Lotus Effect is Real
Much has been made recently of The White Lotus and its effect on interest in Sicily and Hawaii, and from the responses I received, it’s more than warranted.
Richard Turen, Managing Director/Owner, Churchill & Turen Ltd told me “The White Lotus, and its creator and writer Mike White, has had the single largest impact on destination planning of any recent production on the big or little screens. Lotus is the best example of what gorgeous scenery and top-tier camera teams can do to influence travel demand.”
Michelle Gordon, Travel Advisor, Jetset World Travel added “I have had an uptick of interest for those planning on visiting Italy to shift from the Amalfi Coast to Sicily due to the show The White Lotus.”
Arleigh Ogilvie, Travel Advisor, Major Traveler (an affiliate of Jetset World Travel), said “I think The White Lotus has been not only a huge influence on pop culture but also in travel. I sell a lot of Hawaii— it is my top destination—and I have been able to easily sell the Four Seasons Maui as a result of The White Lotus. It is a huge selling point to clients, and has definitely swayed a handful in choosing that specific hotel.”
The British Isles Are Royalty
Bridgerton, Peaky Blinders, Happy Valley, Poldark, Fleabag, and James Bond films. These megahits didn’t get mentioned by the travel advisors I spoke to, so that should give you an idea of just how deep the bench is when it comes to British Isles-based TV and movie travel inspiration,
Hobbins says that “Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) must be on at least 70 percent of my U.K. itineraries over the past five years”.
“Downton Abbey is still quite popular and The Crown is gaining more interest, making these two a natural pairing for their fans,” said Helton.
In regards to the show Outlander, Steuber said “we worked with a family of four who really loved the Outlander series on TV! They came to us with a dream of visiting Scotland but wanted to weave in the film sites, and better yet, if we could arrange to overlap with the cast too—their trip would be made! It wasn’t just the cast or the show, but rather what the series showcased in terms of culture that motivated them to travel.”
When it comes to the incredible level of Harry Potter travel in London, Melissa Pugh, Travel Advisor, Jetset World Travel said in regards to clients, “They want to see all of the places where the movies were filmed. You are able to go to the famous platform 9 3/4 and then to multiple locations around the city. We have guides that will take clients—a big hit with kids—around London so they can see the real spots where the movie was filmed.”
As expected, Game of Thrones came up multiple times in regard to travel to Northern Ireland.
European Vacation Inspiration
According to a few people I spoke with, Emily in Paris is generating interest in France and Under the Tuscan Sun is still sending clients toward Italy and there was even a mention of The Bachelor. It should come as no surprise that Game of Thrones is still generating bookings for Dubrovnik.
Finally, kudos were handed out to Stanley Tucci for his work on Searching for Italy, as Pugh said “Stanley Tucci created a huge desire to go not only to the ‘main attractions’ in Italy but also getting into different locations and parts of the country that has so much to offer. He really brought us over to Europe during a time when no one was allowed to travel there, keeping our love and desire for travel burning deep.”
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