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Monday, March 3, 2014

CineTourism--The Academy Awards and Travel

Which tourism destination is going to be the big winner thanks to this year’s Academy Awards? I’m betting on Norway. Norway? Yes, the Scandinavian country is banking on the success of Frozen, Oscar winner for Best Animated Film, to draw visitors to the land up over this summer. Despite the fact that the film set in Norway per se, Arendelle, the fictional  setting of the movie, is reportedly a mash-up of the country’s scenery, architecture, and way of life.  Innovation Norway reports that since the film’s debut last fall, U.S. visits to the country’s tourism website have tripled, and search engines are reporting increased interest in flights into Oslo


Frozen wouldn’t be the first animated Academy Award winner to bring home the tourism bacon to a northern country. Last year’s winner, Brave, depicts the adventures of a fictional Scottish princess in an actual animated Scotland. The film inspired a multi-million dollar marketing campaign by Visit Scotland, which  forecasts movie-generated visits to bring in more than 200 million dollars in the next five years. Two of the places that inspired animators, the ruins of Dunnottar Castle and the Callanish Stones, are seeing increased visitation, and several companies have developed Brave tours.
While it may seem odd that animated films are serving as travel inspiration, the marriage between live action Academy Award-nominated films and tourism runs deep. Usually, the acclaimed films are masterworks of cinematography. While its roots may go back farther in time (i.e. Lawrence of Arabia 1962), the decade of the 1980s was when the introduction of exotic destinations started directly correlating to increased tourism numbers. The African continent was one of the biggest beneficiaries of that golden age.  Best Picture winner Out of Africa (1985) painted a glamorous yet raw view of life in colonial Kenya. Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, and stunning cinematography created a sense of romance that put Kenya on the mass tourism map for the very first time. In 1988, Gorillas in the Mist (nine nominations, no wins) drew attention to the natural wonders of Rwanda. Tourism temporarily shot up there after the movie’s release, although the civil war in the 1990s negated the impact. But only temporarily--25 years after the movie’s release, Gorilla in the Mist-inspired tours are bestsellers.
Australia was another long-distance destination that used movies to reel in visitors in the 1980s. Long before the Lord of the Rings trilogy made New Zealand a top travel destination, Crocodile Dundee (1986) sparked a fanatical interest in the Land Down Under. No, it didn't win any Academy Awards, although it was nominated for Best Screenplay. But the mix of the rugged and humorous Aussie prototype Paul Hogan and the rugged and scenic appeal of the Northern Territory created a recipe for tourism success. The Northern Territory saw an explosion of tourism by early 1988. To accommodate some of the film-crazed fanatics, an international hotel in the shape of a crocodile opened its jaws in the fall of 1988 in Kakadu National Park. 
Meanwhile, Hogan became a tourism pitchman. His “Throw Another Shrimp on the Barbie” advertising campaign for Tourism Australia was a marketing phenomenon. Interestingly , Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008), one of those stereotypical cinematic homages to dramatic landscapes, did not have the bite that Crocodile Dundee did in terms of winning Oz tourism share. Maybe by 2008, people were too busy heading to New Zealand, inspired by the mystical views of Middle Earth depicted in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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