Visitors zoom in on TV and film locations
A few months ago, the tiny Micronesian island cluster of Palau was one of the world's most obscure nations.
But in February, its tourism website received nearly 7 million hits - thanks to the latest series of US reality TV show Survivor, set on one of its islands.
An estimated 23 million US viewers have tuned in to Survivor: Palau on prime time CBS television, said Mary Ann Delemel, managing director of the Palau Visitors Authority.
She told a discussion on tourism and showbusiness at the Pata conference yesterday that the show had had a tremendous promotional effect on the South Pacific nation, population 20,000, which gained independence in 1994.
'We have received interest from many other productions,' she said, adding that the makers of Survivor spinoff series in Europe and Russia had already approached the government with a view to filming in Palau. One production could earn US$4 to US$5 million for the economy, she said.
Palau is just one of many countries to receive a tourism boost from TV and movies. Tourism authorities in New Zealand have worked with the producers of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Whale Rider, creating a buzz for the movies and the destination.
Sometimes, films attract tourists from specific countries, said John Sandford, CEO and publisher of Jasons Travel Media, which helped market The Lord of the Rings movies and Whale Rider.
Korean production Antarctic Diary had been filmed in New Zealand, he said. Since it would probably be shown only in Korea, marketing efforts would also be confined to that country.
Being a filming location is not always a tourism marketing opportunity. For instance, the X Files series was filmed in Vancouver. Richard Antonson, president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver, said it would be difficult to leverage that show to attract travellers. 'How many people want to open their door to a monster?' he said.
Ms Delemel advised governments to be careful about how production companies portrayed their countries. During the filming of Survivor, locals were barred from entering parts of the country because the makers of the show wanted it to be set in uninhabited virgin territory.