We decided to interview Tourism Ireland because of their success in realising early on that screen tourism was a huge opportunity for them, investing major resources into building more and more activities around Game of Thrones and other screen opportunities. Fast forward six years of filming Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland, the series has become a huge part in showcasing Northern Ireland's landscape and culture. It is, therefore, no surprise that Northern Ireland as a destination is now marketed as the Game of Thrones Territory, attracting visitors from all over the world.
The Game of Thrones series opened up a global stage for marketing Ireland as a tourism destination. The foundation for Tourism Ireland's venture into using screen tourism as a marketing tool is its partnership with HBO which has evolved and grown over the years. Tourism Ireland see major potential in screen tourism, due to its strong influence on travel enabling them to reach a global audience of potential visitors.
The Game of Thrones Opportunity
For the last six years, Tourism Ireland worked extensively with HBO and sees its partnership with them as a huge opportunity to raise the profile of Northern Ireland as a holiday destination. Across Northern Ireland, there are more than 20 filming locations that are accessible to the public and encourage visitors to explore the stunning and unique landscapes of the island.
Over the years, Tourism Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland have developed a range of exciting and engaging visitor experiences that are built around locations that are used in screening. This has helped to work on both product and experience and is a great driver of marketing the Game of Thrones territory. It is important for Tourism Ireland to deliver time-relevant and real-time content to cut through the noise and trigger conversations through smart messages of content.
2016 was the best year to date for Tourism Ireland, surpassing all records with almost 8.3 million people visiting Ireland in the first ten months of 2016 (an 11.6% increase by the end of October). Overseas tourism has contributed more than €3.6 billion to the economy, almost a 10% increase from the previous year. The Game of Thrones campaign is a contributor to breaking these records, reaching 61 million people worldwide, helping with the destination's overseas publicity and exposure which is worth an estimated €385 million in equivalent advertising value.
What is special about the relationship and partnership that Tourism Ireland built over the years, is the fact that it is successfully promoting Game of Thrones as part of its overall marketing and communications, being able to create buzz through award-winning campaigns and installations. Over the years, Tourism Ireland managed to be considered a partner that is adding value to HBO's activities, meaning that in 2016 they shared insights into the narrative of Game of Thrones' season six. This helped Tourism Ireland to refine its content and communicate content relevant messages in correlation to the airing of individual episodes.
In January 2016, storm Gertrude hit Northern Ireland and two trees fell as a result from that at a famous Game of Thrones location. Tourism Ireland made the quick decision to use the wood from the trees to create ten doors telling specific stories of Game of Thrones season six episodes. This helped Tourism Ireland to build on the success of previous years and focus on video content and real-time storytelling. Each door was revealed based on the storylines it displayed as the season aired and all doors are now on display in different pubs, cafés and inns all across Northern Ireland and can still be visited. The huge PR opportunity and value arising from these campaign activities is something that all market offices can amplify to generate media coverage and exposure of Ireland as a destination.
Undoubtedly, Tourism Ireland made huge time and resource commitments to ensure the right content and campaigns are developed and content is distributed in the most impactful way possible. Building these relationships and being a trustworthy partner has meant that the relationship is now a completely different one, where both organisations are seeing a mutual benefit of working closely together. Of course Game of Thrones was a huge opportunity for the destination, however, the team at Tourism Ireland are using it as a major driver to raise awareness, drive inspiration and essentially bookings.
Understanding that a screen tourism opportunity can vanish quickly meant that Tourism Ireland's team is ultra focused on ensuring that it is marketed sustainably. Building on the success while not forgetting that it is equally important to develop other strong opportunities and marketing 'leads' at the same time is absolutely crucial to their future success.
The full video interview with Mark Henry, Central Marketing Director at Tourism Ireland is covering in-depth how Tourism Ireland as a destination worked on the Game of Thrones campaigns and how they are planning to build on this success in the future. However, it is also interesting to look at other destinations' screen tourism approaches and learn from the differences and similarities.
Screen Tourism & Potential for Destinations
Film tourism is a major opportunity for many destinations and a growing amount of tourist boards are actively leveraging the potential to market their destination through direct links with the location of a film or TV show. Here at the #DTTT, we are monitoring what different destinations are doing in this space and what other destinations can learn from the success of others. To explore film or screen tourism as a topic further, we have selected a handful of destinations that are active in this area and are investing heavily in marketing their destination through global film and TV opportunities.
Visit Britain have been hugely successful using film tourism as a prompt to engage new audiences and encourage them to visit Britain. Films such as Harry Potter, James Bond, Pride and Prejudice, Miss Potter, Love Actually, Braveheart, The Queen, The King's Speech, Bridget Jones and Paddington are only a few examples of films that have been filmed at locations all around Britain. Film and TV are an essential way of marketing the destination and Visit Britain are providing a full guide for visitors wanting to visit film and TV locations around the island.
The benefits of film production are huge contributing over £1bn to the UK economy, creating employment of 1.7 million people in 2015 and is driving the country's creative industries. Visit Britain research indicates that 40% of potential visitors are 'very likely' to visit places that have been featured in films or TV. Marketing campaigns relating to specific films are a core part of the UK Government's global GREAT campaign that showcases the best Britain has to offer. Britain's investments in screen tourism campaigns will increase further, focusing on reaching audiences in 144 countries worldwide and especially in key markets such as China, India, Brazil, USA and Mexico.
Visit Denmark is another example of a destination that is actively working on film partnerships and promoting film tourism. Nordic Noir and famous Danish film and TV locations have helped to put Denmark as a destination on the map for new audiences that are influenced in their travel decisions and perceptions of destinations by watching film and TV. On the Visit Denmark website, consumers can learn more about their favourite Danish film and TV series and locations.
In 2016, Visit Denmark joined a promotional partnership with Trolls producer DreamWorks Animation and its distributor Twentieth Century Fox to promote Denmark as a destination. Connecting the animated comedy with its roots seems promising for Visit Denmark and a great opportunity to build on its existing screen portfolio. However, as it is a one-off opportunity, for now, Visit Denmark is limited in providing tips for a trip to Denmark and focused its campaign efforts on competition activities to win a trip to Denmark.
Visit Oslo is one of the newest examples of tapping into the opportunity of film tourism, after the huge national and international success of online TV series SKAM that follows the lives of teenagers that attend a school in Oslo. Each of the seasons follows one main character and is watched entirely online. For Visit Oslo the huge exposure of Oslo as a destination to a young audience is something to take advantage of, providing useful insights into filming locations, linking to Spotify playlists and songs that are featured in the series.
Being relatively new to the idea of promoting screen tourism, Visit Oslo will have to see how they can add value by providing relevant content and insights to a young audience. The opportunity is clearly there for Oslo as a destination, wanting to engage more young consumers and visitors through social channels such as Instagram and Snapchat. SKAM is yet another great opportunity for them to engage with a fan audience that is likely to visit Oslo and explore specific locations and things in the city.
Opportunities for Destinations
Screen tourism is a big trend among the destination community and is something that can make a destination stand out from its competitors on a global stage. For most destinations, there are four core opportunities stemming from screen tourism:
- International brand association
- Economic benefits supporting local creative industries and creating employment
- Positive international exposure and PR coverage of the destination
- Creating innovative visitor experiences resonating with screen audiences
Research conducted by HBO showed that one in four consumers are already choosing their next holiday destination based on film or TV programmes. Screen tourism is not only a driver of bookings and visits to the destination, it can also be a huge opportunity for businesses in the destination. Especially in destinations where film tourism is hugely established such as New Zealand (Lord of the Rings) and Ireland, tourism businesses are actively encouraged to add value to their existing tourism experiences by exploring screen themed tourism experiences, events, tours or packages that will be of interest to visitors attracted through screen tourism.
The role of the tourist board is manifold in winning, promoting and supporting screen tourism in their destination. Tourist boards actively work on screen tourism opportunities by building relationships with the national screen and film associations that are working on attracting film or screen productions to the country. Working together with the right partners while continuing to build relationships with existing productions is a good approach for DMOs to build on their success.
Depending on the remit of the destination, it is also important to work with tourism businesses and facilitate the creation of screen tourism-themed experiences or products in the destination. Each of these experiences or products needs to meet destination specific guidelines or criteria that are in line with legal operations to provide tours, experiences or events to locations that are connected to film or television programmes.
Here at the #DTTT, we recognise the huge opportunities in using screen tourism to create excitement about a destination and ultimately increase the number of visitors. However, only a few destinations have so far made a real, long-term commitment to work on screen tourism opportunities. For a destination to succeed with screen tourism, it requires a dedicated team and a set budget to liaise and attract productions to the destination or start working with the production company or distributor to promote the film or TV programme and its connection to the destination.
Tapping into screen tourism can start with featuring web content and engaging with audiences on social media, however, for it to truly succeed DMOs need a clear screen tourism strategy and approach that clarified how the destination is planning to secure productions, use them as an opportunity and how to build on the excitement around these. Destinations need to be clear about the fact that campaign budgets and tourism development budgets could easily be spent on screen tourism, however, securing a great output and ROI requires careful planning and delivery of screen tourism activities.