film tourism

The reports that show the economic value of filming in our regions

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Filming in the UK has reached record levels. 2014 saw a massive increase in film production in the UK, a 35% increase on 2013 and the highest recorded figure ever.

As a result, screen tourism is a growing phenomenon, with more and more locations across the country benefiting from a booming screen industry.

The report ‘Quantifying Film and Television Tourism in England‘ produced by Olsberg SPI for us in association with VisitEngland looks at the impact of screen tourism across England outside of London and shows that our filming locations are attracting domestic and overseas visitors in abundance.

The research surveyed visitors at eight locations across the country: Alnwick Castle (famously home to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts), the village of Bampton (Downton Abbey), West Bay (Broadchurch), Castle Howard (Brideshead Revisited, Death Comes to Pemberley), Holkham (Shakespeare in Love, The Duchess), Lyme Park (Pride and Prejudice, The Awakening) Puzzlewood (Merlin, Doctor Who) and Wollaton Hall (The Dark Knight Rises).

  • Screen tourists brought between £100 million-£140 million to the economy in 2014
  • The most popular locations can attract up to £1.6 million every year from international tourists
  • Alnwick Castle (famously the home of Hogwarts for the first two Harry Potter films) generated £4.3 million in screen tourism spend in 2014
  • Other sites attracting significant levels of screen tourism included Bampton, with £2.7 million estimated, and West Bay (Broadchurch)

The report also proves that screen tourism is relevant for all types of content, from period drama to dark, contemporary stories, family fare to fantasy and sci-fi.

On dark stories for example, they are not necessarily a barrier to the screen tourism trend. Broadchurch may have hinged on the murder of a child but 30.8% of international respondents were core screen tourists [1], along with 6.9% of domestic respondents. This suggests that compelling, high-quality screen experiences can induce tourism regardless of the plot or tone. It also proves that screen exposure can help drive tourists to the English regions.

With more and more film and high-end TV dramas choosing to film outside of London (Far from the Madding Crowd, Dad’s Army, Wolf Hall and Poldark are all recent examples) screen tourism can only help increase this figure.

Images top left to right: Dr Who and Gillian at Puzzlewood, Merlin at Puzzlewood, Broadchurch filming at West Bay. Bottom left to right: Lyme Park, Wollaton Hall, Merlin at Puzzlewood.

Locations used and results found

The eight locations were carefully chosen to represent a cross-section of sites, spanning different areas of England, different types of location and different types of screen production. Screen tourists were detected at all of the eight sites surveyed for this project. While the volume varied significantly, the value at some sites was highly significant.

Tourists can be categorised in a number of ways  including whether they are domestic or international visitors. While the research and survey process for this study assessed both types of visitor, the core findings relating to the value of screen tourism focus only on inbound spend – I.E. International visitors. Where relevant, findings related to domestic tourists are also included.

This approach has been taken because international screen tourists, of the type this project sought to isolate, are a priority for Government and other agencies. International tourists bring additional spend into the UK, and in the case of core screen tourists this spend can be directly attributable to film and television productions.

More about the study:

Analysis of respondent age showed a relatively wide spread, with the age profile of visitors varying from site to site. For example, Bampton, Castle Howard and West Bay attracted more over-45s than Puzzlewood, Wollaton Hall and Alnwick Castle, which attracted a higher proportion of younger respondents.

In several cases, the value of domestic core screen tourism outstripped the value of international. In this sense, the higher value of international core screen tourism at Bampton suggests that a dramatic portrayal of a traditional England that foregrounds heritage can be a very powerful driver indeed for inbound tourists.

Sites with the most significant survey results were home to iconic locations that featured very prominently in the related screen productions, and played host to key dramatic moments. These locations can be buildings, such as Lyme Park and Castle Howard, or landscape features – such as the cliffs at West Bay.

Some locations had developed strong additional activities that could satisfy visitors who came because of the film or TV connection. These included a broomsticks activity at Alnwick Castle and the opportunity to dress up as an Edwardian person at Lyme Park.