Set Jetting: How the Golden Age of TV Is Changing Tourism Around the World 

They say we’re living in a golden age of television, one where Meryl Streep stars in Big Little Lies and Sunday night is more for HBO than football. But this glut of good TV isn’t just changing viewing habits—it’s changing travel ones.

In the last few years, “set-jetters” have flocked to visit the real-life locations of their favorite television shows. In its latest travel trends report, Trip Advisor found that 1 in 5 global travelers visited a location because they saw it on a T.V. show.

It’s not exactly a new phenomenon: plenty of countries and cities have gotten more visitors after pop culture exposure. But what has changed is the medium that inspired it. For a long time, it was movies that showed grand sweeping vistas on big screens to people all over the world. Yet, with ten-million-dollar episodes and international streaming platforms, TV’s tourism influence is now rivaling that of film—perhaps even surpassing it: A report from the University of North Texas found that “TV viewing behavior is the strongest predictor of entertainment-motivated tourism…television series are often watched on regular basis thus, viewers are more likely to be exposed to the destination image for a longer period.”

And, since there are so many TV shows on air, many with multiple filming locations, several places around the world are experiencing simultaneous tourism swells.

Take the Scottish Highlands, a region that’s no stranger to set-jetters, thanks to blockbuster films like Braveheart and Harry Potter. Yet even they were surprised by the tourism boom caused by Outlander. “We have been absolutely blown away by the response globally to the Outlander series and the direct impact it has had on visits is truly exceptional,” says Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland. “In past research it is always BraveheartHarry Potter, or even the Da Vinci Code which was mentioned. . . but in recent times it is Outlander which is referenced above all others.” VisitScotland reported that some areas of Scotland have seen a 92 percent rise in visitors.

The Old Man of Storr in Scotland

The Old Man of Storr in Scotland. Photo: Getty Images

Monterey, California, has always been a popular pit stop for Route 1 road-trippers. But after being featured in Big Little Lies, the town was thrust into a much brighter spotlight. “There’s no doubt that Monterey County was an uncredited star of the show, and as a result, we’ve certainly received a huge bump in folks talking about our destination as well as interest in visiting,” Rob O’Keefe, Chief Marketing Officer at the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau, told Vogue.

But perhaps no place has felt the set-jetter presence more than Iceland. In 2008, the country was teetering on the edge of economic collapse. 10 years later, it was officially a phoenix risen from the ashes as Bloomberg proclaimed the Icelandic krona the “World’s Best Currency.”

What saved Iceland? A 386% growth in tourism from 2010 to 2018—spurred in part by its role in Game of Thrones. “Game of Thrones is, at the very least, partly responsible for the major uptick in tourism growth in recent years. Many of Iceland’s glaciers, lakes and national parks serve as the backdrop for the ‘lands beyond the wall’ and the popularity of the show has given rise to massive increases in tourism, as the show’s many diehard fans from around the world make pilgrimages, so to speak, to visit the show’s popular filming locations,” FocusEconomics reported.

 

 

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