The effects of films on destination image and tourists’ decision making process

We have seen it in the movies – let’s see if it’s true

Bachelor Thesis, 2016

47 Pages, Grade: 1,50


Table of content

Main Part

1. Introduction
1.1. Status quo
1.2. Findings
1.3. Research gap
1.4. Research objective
1.5. Structure

2. Core section
2.1. Film tourism a literature review
2.1.1. Introduction to film-induced tourism
2.1.2. Film-induced tourism - an interdisciplinary area
2.1.3. Definitions and forms of film tourism
2.1.4. Film tourists and their travel motivations
2.1.5. Location placement
2.2. Destination image literature review
2.2.1. Definitions of destination image
2.2.2. Formation of destination image
2.2.3. Factors that influence destination image
2.2.4. Dimensions of a destination image
2.2.5. The multisensory image as a component of destination image .
2.2.6. Conclusion
2.3. Tourists’ decision making process
2.3.1. The complexity of tourist decision making process
2.3.2. Consumer behaviour
2.3.3. The AIDA model
2.3.4. The Visitor Journey
2.3.5. Customer journey
2.3.6. The impact of destination image on tourists’ decision making process
2.4. Films’ influences on destination image and on tourists’ decision making process
2.4.1. Between dreams and reality - what unites the film industry and tourism
2.4.2. Conceptual framework on viewers’ response to films and television series
2.4.3. Location placement and destination image
2.4.4. Epic storytelling - film tourism success factors
2.5. Best practice example of film induced tourism
2.5.1. Visit Britain
2.5.2. James Bond goes Austria
2.5.3. The Sound of Music - Austria’s cultural ambassador
2.5.4. Bollywood - new comers on the fast track

3. Conclusion and limitations

V. Bibliography

VI. Table of figures


First and foremost, I have to thank my research supervisor, Dr. Tanja Hörtnagl for her assistance and dedicated involvement.

Writing my thesis required more than academic support, hence, a very special thank you goes to my family above all my parents who encouraged me while writing this thesis and throughout my entire studies.

Mes remerciements vont à l'endroit de tous ceux qui ont contribué à la réussite de ce travail pendant mon semestre d'études à Nice.

Main Part

1. Introduction

1.1. Status quo

Homo sapiens is the story telling animal. Most of what we know, or think we know we never personally experience. We live in a world erected by and experienced through the stories we hear, see and tell [ … ] The motion picture was the first medium to put it all together an audio-visual-moving, and soon realistic imagery. (Jowett, 1996, p.9)

Globalisation and frequent travel boost individuals’ exposure to products, services and holiday destinations outside their daily environment. Hence, a sort of “pre- determined” image exists in their mindset when thinking about a certain destination. Mainly due to the intangibility a fundamental characteristic of services, images of destinations are critical factors that contribute immensely to a destination’s success or failure. Thus, understanding its image seems inevitable to manage a destination and to evaluate competitive strengths and weaknesses in a global market place. (Arnett, 2002; Zeugner, & Zabkar, 2015) A strong destination image might represent a competitive advantage that enables a tourism destination to differentiate itself from its competitors. Furthermore researchers have pointed out in tourism literature that a destination image influences tourists’ destination choice or stated differently the more favourable the image of a destination the higher the chances to be selected as holiday destination. A method that is very often used when branding a destination is story-telling and sometimes films form a part of that story because the latter can provide knowledge of certain aspects of the country such as nature, culture and people. (Hunter, 2016; Ţuclea, 2011)

The effects of films on human behaviour have been debated frequently above all in relation to social change. Slocum, (2000) notes that several social scientists assume that “Hollywood serves both as an agent of social control and change”. (Slocum, 2000, p.649) The popular mass media, particularly the medium of film, be that through movies, television or DVDs, play a major role in today’s society. Moreover it was found that watching films and television series influences subconsciously the way human individuals behave and act in everyday life situations. (Beeton, 2005)

The greater recognised role of media in contemporary society also brought an immense information flood and has led to a selective cognition of customers. Consequently marketing measures through mass media have become less successful. Entrepreneurs are challenged to establish and to maintain their position on a highly competitive tourism market which implies finding a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors as well as (re)gaining brand awareness among their customers. As films act as holiday brochures they can also be seen as an efficient marketing tool. In recent years there has been an increasing interest in how films may shape destination images and therefore film tourism has emerged as a significant growth sector in the field of tourism. (Beerli & Martín 2004; Connell 2012; Frost 2006; O’Connor, 2011; Soliman 2011).

1.2. Findings

Destination image has become one of the most popular research themes in tourism literature because it was found that destination image not only influences customers’ satisfaction but also persuades them to visit or revisit a destination. Moreover it was found that a positive destination image strengthens a destination’s position among its competitors. Therefore the significance of analysing image formation, dimensions and influential factors of destination image has been increasingly recognised in the tourism industry. (Hunter, 2016; Greaves, 2010; McCartney, 2008; Özdemir, 2014)

There is a huge number of well-known movies that not only achieved a great success among a global audience but also overwhelmed millions of people with emotions and conveyed long-lasting impressions. For this reason people’s desire to visit the film location in order to (re-)experience the stories told by their film heroes has become more and more powerful. Moreover films are said to implement location placement and are consequently gaining awareness of tourism marketers. (Buchmann, 2010; Frost 2006; Tooke & Baker, 1996; Schofield, 1996)

The “Harry Potter” movies lead to significantly more visitors at King’s Cross station in London. One year after the release of the “Braveheart” movie the number of tourists who came to see the Wallace Monument, in Scotland increased by 300 per cent. Moreover thanks to the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral” the “The Crown Hotel, Amersham”, in England was fully booked for three years in a row. (Hudson, 2006) During the world premiere of “The return of the King” in December, 2013 in Wellington, New Zealand, more than 120,000 fans mainly from overseas countries, came to visit the city and hung out in the town square to catch a glimpse of the film’s cast and crew. (Grenier, 2011; Roesch, 2009) Furthermore the “Pure- New Zealand” tourism campaign was primarily inspired by the “Lord of the Rings” movies. (Tzanelli, 2004) In the UK it was found that one out of 10 foreign visitors decides to travel to the UK as a result of seeing the country in a film. For instance the exposure of London’s district in Notting Hill attracted many viewers to come to discover the locations featured in the movie. (Hudson, 2010) Apart from that Bollywood proved to be a major driver that influences and inspires Indian people to visit British destinations displayed in Bollywood films. Producing more than 800 films a year with over a billion potential viewers the Indian Film Industry is in fact one of the largest film industries worldwide. Therefore film producers and tourist marketers started cooperating to reach this new emerging customer segment. (Visit Britain, 2010, Wang, 2016)

Goeldner and Ritchie, (2009) suggest that tourism is an interdisciplinary area that relates to sociology, culture, sports, economy and many others. Falling loosely under the umbrella of cultural tourism, the film and tourism industries both provide factors that could establish a mutually beneficial cooperation. (Hudson 2010; Ingram, 2015,).

Fuelled by both the growth of the entertainment industry as well as the increase in international travel, film induced tourism received global recognition. However, film tourism is actually a phenomenon that has been happening for a greater amount of time. Arguably from the 1940s, 1950s onwards, films actually started influencing people to travel more frequently during their vacation time. One of the oldest examples of film tourism can be found in Ireland. In 1952 John Ford directed “The quiet man”, an American comedy-drama that is still bringing tourists to the film location in Ireland. Also “The sound of Music”, a musical drama film released in 1965 functions as Austria’s ambassador in the Anglophone countries, UK, Australia, US, New Zealand and Canada and inspires around 300.000 tourists a year to visit the city of Salzburg. (O’Connor, 2008, 2010)

Thanks to technical innovations in contemporary society access to film has become increasingly easier either by visiting the cinema, renting a movie at a video store or by simply watching a movie online. It can be said that cinema provides people with what they long for in their lives love, emotion, extravagance, adventure, seduction, distraction, etc. Movies enable individuals to temporarily lose themselves for a few hours and to be drawn into a fictional story. As with tourism, people aim to escape from their daily routine to allow themselves to relax and restructure. Stated differently, to the modern day tourism industry, film tourism represents a new way to reach an audience nationally as well internationally because both the film industry and the tourism sector make a living from creating experiences. (Krippendorf, 1987, Ingram, 2013,)

1.3. Research gap

Film tourism gained significance in terms of academic research and industry interest since the “Lord of the Rings” movies and the impact they had on tourists’ visitations in New Zealand during the years 2002 and 2003 in particular. The major part of research concerning film induced tourism is based in the UK, Ireland Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Apart from that, the analysis and evaluation of destination image has helped to obtain a greater understanding of tourist behaviour. There is a common agreement among tourism marketers that promoting destinations without an emotional component is impossible. Moreover destination image and tourist decision making processes both represent a frequently discussed topic in literature. However, the potential correlation between films and destination image and consequently travellers’ holiday selection is relatively new to literature. Hence, the research question of this thesis:

How do films affect destination image and consequently tourists ’ holiday decision making?

1.4. Research objective

This thesis focuses on film induced tourism and investigates how a film can help to communicate a destination’s image. Furthermore this thesis provides a brief overview on film tourism, destination image and tourists’ decision making process.

1.5. Structure

The core section of this thesis consists of 5 major parts;

- Film tourism a literature review
- Destination image
- Tourist decision making process
- Impacts of films on destination image
- Best practice examples

The first three chapters provide a general literature overview of the topics discussed in this thesis.

Afterwards the chapter “Impacts of films on destination image” explains the relation between destination image, tourist decision making process and film induced tourism. The Best Practice Example with the goal to describe a few successful collaborations between the film industry and tourism organisations can be found in the end of the main part.

The core section is followed by a conclusion which summarises the key results of this thesis.

2. Core section

2.1. Film tourism a literature review

At the beginning of this cores section a literature review on film tourism aims to provide a general introduction of the research domain of this thesis. Therefore, definitions and forms of film tourism will be discussed briefly. Afterwards film tourists and their travel motivations will be portrayed. The last part of this chapter explains the term location placement as effective marketing tool.

2.1.1. Introduction to film-induced tourism

Today’s global tourists are increasingly exposed to various forms of media which allow them to consume and experience visual images immediately. The media does not only function as a world-wide news-provider but has become an essential part of our daily lives. Therefore impacts of media on our daily routine have been remarkably significant. Thanks to cinema, video rental shops and watch online platforms, access to films is becoming increasingly easier. There is a common agreement that film became the dominant form of art during the twentieth century. Although films are not primarily produced to persuade people to travel to a particular place destination, marketers discovered the possibility to benefit from the imagery and the story movies portray. Hence, a growing number of authors investigated the phenomenon of tourists visiting a certain destination because of their association towards a specific place created by movies. (Bolan, 2011; O’Connor, 2007, Kim, 2010; Kim, 2011;).

As there is an increasing number of film producers using computer-generated imagery to create unreal or non-existent backdrops for films, the growing interest of film tourism seems to be rather ironic on first sight. Especially the release of 3D (three-dimensional) productions such as “Avatar” may mark the abandonment of on-location shooting for a number of major movies. However, several researchers among them Tooke, Baker, Beeton, Roesch and Butler disconfirmed the assumptions indicating that locations which tourists see or believe to see in particular movies can induce tourists’ travel intentions. Furthermore Kim (2007) found that popular films and television programmes stimulate tourism demand for displayed destinations. (Beeton, 2006; Butler, 2011; Kim, 2007; Kim, 2011; O’Connor, 2010; Roesch 2009)

2.1.2. Film-induced tourism - an interdisciplinary area

Tourism researchers suggest that tourism is an interdisciplinary area relating to economy, leisure, sociology, sports, culture and heritage, technology, psychology and many others. Tourism behaviour, is influenced by a number of factors, some of them are more obvious than others. Film tourism falls under the umbrella of cultural tourism and combines the disciplines of psychology, sociology as well as areas such as economy, tourism marketing and strategic management. Figure one illustrates the complex research dimensions of film tourism. Due to its complexity various definitions of film tourism which is also named movie-induced tourism exist in tourism literature. (Beeton, 2005; Ingram 2013)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: The emerging research dimensions of film tourism within a social science paradigm (Connell, 2012)

2.1.3. Definitions and forms of film tourism

According to Scotland’s national tourism organisation, film tourism is “the business of attracting visitors through portrayal of the place or a place’s storylines in film, video and television”. (Scottish Tourism Board, 1991) Roesch further defines film tourism as “a specific pattern of tourism that drives visitors to see screened places during or after the production of a featured film or a television production:” (Roesch 2009, p.6).

Furthermore the terms “movie tourism” and “film tourism” are used interchangeably in tourism literature. Although a few critics demand to distinguish between them maintaining that movie is primarily associated with American cinema vocabulary, researchers counter their point of view. They argue that it might not be necessary to differentiate between film and television because it is not the form but the impacts which are of significance for tourism marketers. Additionally researchers very often refer to film tourism as film-induced tourism. (Connell, 2012). Hence, as the main focus of this thesis lies on the effects of film tourism the terms film tourism, movie tourism, film and movie- induced tourism will be used interchangeably later on. This thesis will stick to the definitions of Tooke and Baker saying that “Film tourism is the effect of both cinema film and of television film on the numbers of visitors coming to the place where the filming is believed to have taken place”. (Tooke & Baker 1996, p. 87)

However, at the beginning of this section further distinctions will be made to provide a general overview of different forms of film tourism.

Beeton (2005) points out that film studios, theme parks, film festivals and movie premieres entail an increase of tourists and therefore demands to consider the broader aspects of film tourism. (Beeton, 2005)

Furthermore Beeton (2005) distinguishes between various areas of film induced tourism such as on-location tourism and off-location tourism. On-location tourism implies travelling to locations of the environment that have been displayed in the movie or to film sets that can be still found at a destination. Examples would be travelling to the landscapes portrayed in “The Lord of the Rings” visiting the platform 9 ¾ at Kings’ Cross Station, famous because of the “Harry Potter” movies or going to see Montmartre, the well-known district of Paris, to (re)experience “Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain”. Off-location tourism includes visiting a film set that has been installed in a studio or an artificial setting, such as visiting the set of Desperate Housewives at the Universal Studios in Hollywood (Beeton, 2005; Roesch, 2009; Tzanelli, 2004).

Another aspect linked to on and off-location tourism is the growth of runaway productions. In those scenarios the movie is filmed in a completely different location than portrayed in the movie. For instance the movie “The Last Samurai” plays in Japan but the filming took place in New Zealand. Film tourism researchers indicate that film tourists are occasionally not aware of runaway productions. Therefore this lack of knowledge sometimes leads to disappointment when viewers recognise that the film shooting location differs from the place the story was depicted in the movie. However, other marketers observed that in terms of film induced tourism, runaway productions could be beneficial for both places; the destination in which the movie was shot and the location portrayed in the film. A mutually successful example of a runaway production is the film “Braveheart”, shot in Ireland, playing in Scotland. The movie shows how historical films can create attractive destination images. Apart from that it is worth mentioning that even though the audience was aware that Braveheart was a runaway production an increase of film-induced tourism could be observed in both countries. (Beeton, 2005; Chan, 2008; Frost, 2004)

2.1.4. Film tourists and their travel motivations

As films and television series inspire a wide range of audience, analysing film tourists in a general way might be problematic. However, there seems to be an agreement in academic literature that film tourists tend to be more educated, well informed, middle-aged and more likely women. In today’s modern society film tourists are often compared to pilgrims because both come to admire and capture the atmosphere of what they perceive as “meaningful place”. Pull factors that attract viewers to travel to a particular destination are often scenery, fun and entertainment as well as social and cultural characteristics and imagery. Film tourism researchers also refer to these pull factors as “icons” that become the main reason to visit a place. Furthermore tourism authors mention novelty motives as a main driver for travelling to a film location. An example would be prestige type motives such as sharing the extraordinary travel experience with friends and family after returning home and posting pictures of film locations on social media platforms. In addition to that fantasy motives are noted in film literature for instance (re)experiencing the story portrayed in the film. One aspect that applies for all film tourists is that they associate their emotions with the film’s story. Moreover it can be argued that various forms of themes such as history, fantasy, science fiction, romance and action may evoke viewers’ desire to visit a destination featured in the movie. Thus, regarding Maslow’s pyramid of needs, film-induced tourism could be classified between the needs of self-esteem and self-actualisation. (Connell, 201; Ivanovic, 2008; Roesch, 2009; Soliman, 2011)

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2: Film induced tourism in Maslow's Pyramid of needs (based on Ivanovic, 2008, Maslow, 1970)

2.1.5. Location placement

In tourism literature marketers often refer to location placement as special form of product placement. The aim of location placement is to promote a place in a movie or a television series and to mould a favourable destination image in order to attract potential tourists to visit a place presented in a movie. Location placement is not associated with the biases of traditional marketing campaigns and can therefore be seen as an effective communication tool. (Roesch, 2009)

2.2. Destination image literature review

The following chapters aim to provide a general overview of destination image. Thus the first part contains definitions of destination image. The second part discusses the factors that affect destination image. Afterwards the dimensions of destination image will be analysed to describe the complexity of destination image and its interrelation to tourists’ decision making process.

2.2.1. Definitions of destination image

The UNWTO defines a tourism destination as follows:

A local tourism destination is a physical space in which a visitor spends at least one overnight. It includes tourism products such as support services and attractions, and tourism resources within one day’s return travel time.

It has physical and administrative boundaries defining its management, images and perceptions defining its market competitiveness. Local tourism destinations incorporate various stakeholders often including a host community, and can nest and network to form larger destinations. (UNWTO, 2002)

Some destinations are determined by national borders or by topographic features. Therefore one could argue that countries and regions such as France or the Alps, the Rocky Mountains etc., represent destinations. However, in tourism literature one also uses the term destination referring to a town, a certain area or region or a whole continent. (Presenza, 2005).

Over the last decades destination image received great attention in tourism literature because tourism marketers and market researchers recognized the power of a destination image to affect consumer behaviour. Therefore destination image is closely linked to the three main domains of strategic marketing, segmentation, positioning and branding. (Hankinson, 2005) As destination image is in fact one of the most frequently explored fields in tourism research, several definitions have been provided and research remains still rather inconclusive concerning an accurate and clear definition of destination image. Pearce) even argues that “image is one of those terms that won’t go away… a term with vague and shifting meaning,” (Pearce, 1988, p. 162) referring to the lack of consensus of the definition of destination image which has proven to be problematic ever since. (Elliot, 2013; Jenkins, 1999; Kladou, 2015; Költringer, 2015)

Crompton’s definition of destination image released in 1979 appears to be one of the most cited, stating that destination image is “The sum of beliefs, ideas and impressions that a person has of a destination.” Although this definition is considered to be an appropriate starting point, marketers criticize its lack of accuracy. (Greaves, 2010) Having said that destination image may have various functions, such as expressing ideas, sending messages, Molina underlines the complexity of destination image. (Molina, 2010) Llodrà-Riera (2015, p, 463) provided a definition that appears very accurate regarding this thesis; “Destination image is the result of a mental process where individuals create a mental representation about the destination, based on the information that previously they have received, and selected and the meaning the information has for them.”


Excerpt out of 47 pages


The effects of films on destination image and tourists’ decision making process
We have seen it in the movies – let’s see if it’s true
Management Center Innsbruck
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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1273 KB
Destination image, customer journey, film tourism, movie induced tourism, film induced tourism, customer decision making process, story telling, culture tourism, destination selection, visitor journey, epic story telling
Quote paper
Bernadette Walcher (Author), 2016, The effects of films on destination image and tourists’ decision making process, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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