Rediscover Spain through screen tourism

When we have already become used to experience tourism, to organising and living our own adventures, to ultra-personalised attention in hotels, to themed trips… what else can be offered to make our getaways and holidays really special? Undoubtedly, screen tourism has a lot to say in this respect, as it is one of those tourism proposals that can be presented as innovative and unique. The key lies in its ability to make us travel, even before we leave home, thanks to the strong emotional burden linked to audiovisual productions. This is where the magic lies and this is the path that the Spain Screen Grand Tour project of Spain Film Commission proposes with the aim of boosting an entire tourist segment.

Film tourism, cinema-tourism, screen tourism… These terms are known in certain specialised circuits, normally associated with cinema and television. Sometimes, even in a tourist information office, we are offered a brochure under the heading “cinema routes”, but… what is actually screen tourism?

What do we understand by screen tourism?

Not so long ago, film tourism was more associated with touring the homes of the stars in Hollywood or visiting a theme park such as Universal Studios. However, the audiovisual world has evolved dizzyingly in the last decade, incorporating streaming platforms into our lives, offering a wide range of productions and globalising the consumption of content, as well as favouring a rapprochement between cultures through them.

Moreover, this boom has brought with it the emergence of mass phenomena such as “Game of Thrones”, something that already existed in the realm of blockbuster films, but which is now bigger and faster. This is why the term “film tourism” is an understatement, and that concept has been broadened to incorporate the new formats. Hence the term “screen tourism”, a broader definition that encompasses all types of audiovisual productions, from films and series, to video clips, video games and commercials.

The protagonists of “Valeria” in Perlora (Asturias) during the filming of the series / Netflix

The key to this increasing form of tourism is the emotional bond that visual fictions create with the people who watch them, arousing a special interest in the places where they have been filmed. From the point of view of consumers of series and films, there is a growing interest in knowing where certain scenes have been shot because of the beauty and uniqueness of the landscapes, the exclusivity of the locations or simply because they want to be there and feel part of the story that captivated them on the screen.

But, from the point of view of tourist destinations, screen tourism is an element of great interest for the marketing and promotion of a territory, as it can encourage the massive arrival of tourists eager to see with their own eyes the places where their favourite fictions have been filmed.

The “I was there” effect

In short: today’s spectator can become tomorrow’s tourist. Always with the invaluable help of another of the most recent phenomena of mass communication: social media. Undoubtedly, one of the best aspects of such an experience is being able to tell the story: “Do you remember the hotel that appears in the last film of James Bond? Well, I was there on my last holiday”. That “I was there” is what largely moves the viewer to choose that destination and not another, as their holiday or weekend getaway destination.

The screen tourist, defined as the one who schedules his/her tourist agenda influenced by what appears on the screen or the one who is positively influenced in his/her decision-making by an offer including this type of ingredients, is growing in number.

Antonio Resines, Miguel Rellán and Manuel Galiana during the filming of “We are sorry for the inconvenience” in Mijas (Málaga) / Movistar Plus+

According to a survey recently carried out by TCI Research, 80 million travellers around the world choose their destination based on films and TV series. This survey reveals that the number of travellers who go to a destination after seeing it in a film or series has doubled in the last 5 years. Therefore, screen tourism is a new type of tourism that responds to new cultural consumers’ interest in the creative industries and, in particular, audiovisual arts.

Spain, after constant efforts to attract international filming to its territory, has become a prime destination for this new kind of tourism, which would accompany other types of tourism in which it is already a world leader: sun and beach, cultural and relaxation and wellbeing tourism. The clear advantage of screen tourism over other typologies is that it allows the flow of tourists to be deseasonalised and delocalised, because in our case they can travel throughout the year to visit their dream locations, which are scattered all over Spain.

For all these reasons, our commitment is to invite people who fall in love with our country through the screen to come and experience it in first person. Hence, the claim that will accompany the Spain Screen Grand Tour project shall be “Spain, live what you see”.

Let’s remember a bit

We have already mentioned the “Game of Thrones” phenomenon, which was a turning point in the screen tourism related to series. But the film tourism phenomenon goes back a long way. In fact, almost from the beginning of the history of cinema, a 20th century invention that has gone hand in hand with improvements in transport and telecommunications. Without wishing to make an exhaustive review of all the films that have aroused the viewer’s desire to visit their locations, some of them have been real milestones.

The entire James Bond saga, for instance. Who has seen some of their magnificent localisations and has not wished to be in Jamaica, Monaco, Thailand or Rome? In Spain we have also seen some 007 adventures on La Caleta beach in Cadiz, for example. Another notorious case was that of the hotel where most of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” was filmed, which was sold out for many years. Another fully successful film saga, “The Lord of the Rings”, placed New Zealand at the top of the list of the trendiest destinations of the first decades of the 2000s.

What other precedents are there in Spain? Our country was a pioneer in creating such emotions, especially for the North American market. In the 50s, many blockbusters and others not so super but just as interesting, were filmed here. From “El Cid” to “Lawrence of Arabia” up to “Indiana Jones and the last crusade” taught the world what Spain had to offer. And, already in the21st century, mass phenomena such as “The House of Paper”, “The Crown” and “Game of Thrones” have once again put our country at the top of the list of filming destinations.

Chef Gordon Ramsey during the filming of one of his programs in Santiago de Compostela / Santiago de Compostela Film Commission

As regards the internal market, it was not until the 80s that a family series such as “Blue Summer” brought the imaginary idyllic summer holiday in the south of the country to everyone’s imagination. For the delights of the north, we had to wait even longer: until in 2009 “Doctor Mateo” made us want to move to a small fishing village where things were always happening in a dreamlike landscape.

From this moment on, the way fiction was filmed changed completely, and there is no self-respecting series that does not shoot a significant percentage of its footage in carefully chosen locations.

What happened after the coronavirus pandemic?

If for tourism in general the two strange years of the pandemic were a turning point in many aspects, for the consumption of content on streaming platforms, 2021 was the year of stratospheric take-off. If we learned anything from confinement and restrictions, it was to go out anywhere, near or far, and if we did anything, it was to watch series and series in endless marathons. All of this has led to an increase in content production like never before seen in the audiovisual industry. Attractive content must be created on a continuous basis. And this is where Spain has emerged as one of the world’s most desirable filming destinations.

The audiovisual industry plays a key role in the Spanish economy. Spain is the sixth country of the European Union in terms of the number of titles produced (after Germany, France, United Kingdom, The Netherlands and Italy) and the fifth in terms of the number of production hours (after Germany, United Kingdom, France and Italy). Based on the data provided by the European Audiovisual Observatory, in their Yearbook Key Trends 2019-2020 report, Spain is among the top five countries exporting pay-per-view film titles together with United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy.

Paco León and Ernesto Alterio during the filming of “Mari(dos)” in the Aragonese Pyrenees / Diego López Calvín/ Aragón Film Commission

For the Spanish Government, this industry is strategic due to its global nature, its capacity to generate employment and its potential for modernisation through digitisation. For that reason, in March 2021, the ‘Spain, Audiovisual Hub of Europe’ plan was approved, with over 1.6 billion euros of public investment until 2025, with the aim of making Spain a leading country in audiovisual production in the digital era, a magnet for international investment and talent, and with a strengthened ecosystem for exporting and competing in international markets.

Spain Film Commission, responsible for the execution of five action plans within the Spain, Audiovisual Hub of Europe plan, has been the entity in charge of converting Spain into a large film set since its foundation in 2001. After 20 years of existence, this entity brings together 39 offices and film commissions in cities and autonomous communities that have made Spain the fourth most filmed country in the world.

The work of SFC and its network has produced two effects:

  1. The relocation of filming, which used classic locations in the past, and now uses locations all over Spain.
  2. Diversification. Nowadays, thanks to the work of the Autonomous Communities and cities, Spain offers a huge diversity of scenery, which has extended the effects of film and TV series shooting.
Filming of “I’m going to have a good time” in Valladolid / Valladolid Film Commission
From the last seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “The Crown” to Bollywood productions, more and more directors choose our country to shoot their films. And chosen locations are spread all over the country; from Navarra and Almeria deserts to the volcanic landscapes of Canarias, passing through Castilian castles and plains or great cities, there are a few sites left in Spain that have not already been shown in productions around the world.

Another of SFC’s aspirations is to convert our country in a benchmark of screen tourism. Spain Film Commission has been a forerunner in analysing and highlighting the relationship between the audiovisual and tourism industries and has driven various initiatives to promote film tourism.

For this purpose, FITUR SCREEN has been organised in collaboration with IFEMA since 2019 and in 2021 the “Spain Screen Grand Tour” initiative was presented. Its aim is to encourage the creation of tourist products based on films or series and homogenise film routes nationwide.

And, after all these years of work, the content strategy of the Spain Screen Grand Tour project shall be presented at Fitur Screen 2023. The challenge of making Spain a benchmark for screen tourism is ambitious, but achievable. Therefore, through the section that will be enabled on the Spain Film Commission website and the specific channels that will be opened on social media, all kinds of suggestions will be provided to connect the emotion of fiction with the real scenarios that hosted its filming. The magic is served.

By María Parcero

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