Set-jetting hits the big time
March 17, 2023
How travel professionals can successfully market a product or destination made famous by the big and small screens
With two-years of lockdowns, restrictions and destination border closures, it’s no surprise that consumers turned to TV and film as their main source of future travel inspiration. A mask-less reality, with no social distancing in sight, was a vision most people wouldn’t have considered a dream, until the pandemic hit. But, like TV, for as many horrors as there were in 2020 and 2021, there were plenty of other genres of life and art to uncover.
The pandemic-induced obsession with TV, streaming and film has had a lasting impact on society’s reaction to the visual arts – Netflix reported a subscriber growth of 52% in the first half of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019 (Statista).
What is set-jetting?
Set-jetting (or some prefer Jetflix) is a newly coined term for those so inspired by the latest film or TV series, that they book a trip to visit the exact location where it was set or filmed. Google accounted a spike in searches for Sicily to the second series of popular show The White Lotus, whilst in the US, Paramount+’s Yellowstone is inspiring domestic travel for a “cowboy-cation”, and Emily in Paris is sure to help keep the city top of Euromonitor International’s annual index of the world’s city destinations.
And although Netflix’s growth has now slowed considerably since its 2020 boom, the armchair travel phenomenon isn’t going anywhere. London Luton Airport recently announced research that found one in six (17%) of Brits are planning to travel to locations where their favourite TV shows have been filmed. But, how do travel companies and tourism boards maximise this opportunity? And is there a risk of becoming a novelty when the allure of the show fizzles?
What does set-jetting mean for travel and tourism?
Granted, the sudden rise in interest in a destination, hotel or region is hugely beneficial to the area’s tourism industry. With hits such as Outlander, Mary, Queen of Scots and Harry Potter filmed in Scotland, Screen Scotland reported that screen tourism has brought £55 million into the country’s economy and provided 1,220 FTEs (full-time equivalent employment).
But, this comes at a price – yes, hoards of tourists lining up for a photograph on Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway, made famous by Game of Thrones, means queues forming at local restaurants and cafes, whilst nearby accommodation is booked up for months – but is this type of superstardom maintainable? And it raises the question if it should be sustained. It’s true that trends come and go, and set-jetting may just be a reactive fad as a result of the confines of lockdown.
Top set-jetting tips for travel companies and tourism boards
With all this in mind, here are our top tips for travel companies and tourism boards, on how to maximise set-jetting, without exploiting the trend:
- Packages and tours – some filming spots might be difficult to find or are located off the ‘normal’ tourist track, so who’s better to open up accessibility than those in the know? Travel and tourism companies are the experts and can exercise this knowledge by making it easy for tourists. Whether it’s working with local tour groups to curate specific itineraries that include filming hotspots, or liaising with hotel partners to promote hotels where stars resided whilst filming, utilising in-destination partners is a surefire way to ensure the industry is brought on the journey.
- Make it last – think beyond the initial interest and ensure packages and/or tours have longevity and if they don’t, it may not be worth the time and effort. A curated foodie tour of the Emilia Romagna region, inspired by Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy, is a great way to entice more visitors to walk the walk that Tucci took around the cities of Modena, Bologna and Parma. However, these are foodie hotspots in their own right. A curated tour linked to the award-winning show is a great starting point, but tour operators must look beyond this immediate fame to ensure long-lasting distinction.
- Don’t push it – perhaps the said film or show is based in a destination that tourists can simply just visit to feel immersed in the screen magic. For example, Crazy Rich Asians showcases many of Singapore’s stunning vistas and must-do activities on screen, but these can be experienced without the need of a special tour or itinerary. Travellers are inquisitive by nature – they can and will, seek out the top filming spots for that all-important Instagram shot! Take a leaf out of Malta’s book, the tourism board shows the highlights of film locations to entice people to explore their favourites, be it Gladiator, Popeye or Jurassic World that tickles their fancy.
- Maintain the enigma – sure, if people want to experience the Hollywood version of a certain series or film, they’d wait until one of the big theme parks opens a ‘world’ dedicated to the franchise. Part of the appeal and interest in a filming location is that it is somewhere, it exists beyond the fantasy and is very much operating in the world we are in today. The desire to recreate dramatic scenes in the footsteps of actors is key, but so too is learning about the history behind a location /hotel/monument and what it means to the local community – an unexpected highlight of North Iceland has been the Eurovision Museum in Husavik with costumes and accompanying cocktails from the 2020 hit Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.
- Immersive experiences – some locations are so synonymous with a TV show that the set could really be anywhere in the world and still speak to its original location. Think New York City to Friends, Boston to Cheers, Manchester to Coronation Street. Consumers unknowingly buy into the socio-geographical niches that are so often entwined in long-running shows. The team behind 90s fan favourite Friends has seen this with the FriendsFest set tour experience, which has made its way through the UK, first appearing in 2014 and returning ahead of the show’s 25th anniversary in 2019. The Central Perk sign, chesterfield sofa and Monica’s kitchen table were all there, giving consumers an inside view of the beloved show. Easily movable objects can be transported anywhere and take the experience to the consumer, whilst still giving a sense of place and purpose.With the onset of AI and digital capabilities, this can go one step further. Infusing social media platforms with Augmented Reality (AR), or 360-degree activations engages and interacts with audiences on a global scale, but through a localised means.
- On the pulse of launches, relaunches and re-releases – in a world with ever-growing choice and options at your fingertips, consumers are looking to revisit moments that bring about a sense of nostalgia. Booking.com recently found that 88% of people want to embark on a trip down memory lane and visit somewhere they’ve previously travelled to, or a place that ignites the magic of years-gone-by.Should there be any new or relaunched TV shows, or a remake of a beloved film classic that happens to be filmed in your region, don’t miss out on maximising the opportunity. Track the show/film’s coverage in the media (if it is on Netflix, the streaming platform very kindly shows you what’s trending in your region) and keep abreast of filming and publication dates, so you can prepare to launch an accompanying set-jet promotion.
Elsewhere, building relationships with key network personnel is important; it will provide the opportunity to put your destination’s name in the hat at the location-scouting stage, or you’ll find out the inside track before the show has aired, to prepare relevant communication, packages and online activity.
- Keep it real – working with factual television can offer a unique insight into your destination, to a captured and often loyal viewership. Factual television speaks directly to the end-consumer and is an excellent way to create genuine connections with prospective travellers, whilst building trust in the brand. Furthermore, factual TV producers recognise the importance of travel inspiration, and so these partnerships are equally beneficial.At FINN, our travel team has successfully garnered relationships with key television producers, creating valuable on-screen opportunities for a range of clients. From ITV’s leading morning show, This Morning (where Sunlife and Dubai have been featured) to business-focused entertainment, The Apprentice (where episodes of the latest series have been filmed in Antigua and Dubai) our travel PRs have created an invaluable way to shape the narrative around tourism destinations and work ahead to ensure clients capitalise on the opportunity to further promote the tourism destination, post release.
Set-jetting, whilst a key trend for 2023, is sure to stick around for a while with the influx of inspirational sets gracing our screens. Bergerac is making its return to the island of Jersey this summer and The White Lotus has already been commissioned for its third series, but with no location announced yet, bets are on for the next must-visit destination.
You can find out about Finn Partners’ work in this area through our travel and tourism practice.