Does an Oscar really win tourism?
Of course, winning a major award like an Oscar can also can help drive a film’s potential for catapulting its destination into prime time. Even so, this year's Oscar nominees are less location-centric than in previous years, making it hard to know which – if any – will inspire the next must-see destination. Apart from 12 Years a Slave, which was filmed in Louisiana, the movie Nebraska perhaps comes closest, but for very different reasons: its stark black-and-white shots of vast, windswept farmland are as important to the feel of the film as is its veteran star, Bruce Dern. “Nebraska would be my pick,” Cuff said. He pointed out that the film’s director, Alexander Payne, had already created one classic tourism film: the 2011 movie Descendants, set in Hawaii. It had “gorgeous, accessible locations, a famous cast with a loyal fan base, and a soundtrack entirely scored from local Hawaiian songs,” Cuff said. “Importantly, though, it was backed up by savvy tourism marketing from the state, and the development of associated tourism product such as Descendants tours. I don’t know whether the Nebraska tourist board is planning to be quite so proactive.”
Matt Maytum, news editor at Total Film magazine, suggested Before Midnight, set in the Greek islands and nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. “It really does show off the Greek Peloponnese in a ridiculously beautiful light,” he said.
Still, not all film tourism comes about because of positive associations with a destination’s beauty. Of this year's Oscars nominees, Maytum said, it is the harrowing 12 Years A Slave that might compel audiences to see sites featured in the film. “It might generate interest in visiting the relevant locations for educational reasons, or to pay respects,” he said. In fact, a “Northup Trail” is currently being set up in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, where Solomon Northup arrived after being kidnapped into slavery.
“The big question is if Gravity will spark a lot of interest in space tourism!” Sellgren said.
And there are plenty more movies on the way that may prove even more promising. This year's forthcoming Paddington Bear, set in London, is one potential tourist draw. Industry insiders also are watching to see how the Game of Thrones franchise will affect tourism in Northern Ireland, where many of the key scenes were shot.
Pompeii – a movie about the doomed Italian city released in the US on 21 February and starring Kit Harington, a lead actor from Game of Thrones – may be the most likely to inspire travel plans, said Stefan Roesch, the manager of a consultancy called Film Tourism that advises destination-marketers and tourist boards. Another inspiring set might be the next instalment of The Avengers franchise, set for release in 2015 and filmed in Johannesburg, South Africa, with later shootings in Seoul, South Korea.
Until then, cinema-loving travellers always have New Zealand.