Blockbuster movies fuel tourism boom – and headache for locals

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Italian Americans always fight against stereotypes of the mafia. New Zealanders are tired of the Tolkien tourists. Italian agents chase people out of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Blockbuster hits like “The Godfather” and “The Lord of the Rings” can bring a huge influx of tourists to the places where they were filmed. But often headaches follow.

In 1996, Mel Gibson’s historical action movie “brave heartled to a 300% increase in visitors to The National Wallace Monument in Scotland. Likewise, the “Harry PotterAccording to an article in the Journal of Travel Research in 2006, film franchise increased tourism to every location in the UK where the films were shot by at least 50%.

“Film tourism,” as it is known, can stimulate the local economy and fill in gaps caused by seasonal interruptions in tourism. But there is often a downside.

Negative Connotations

Considered one of the greatest movies of all time – “the godfather” – created a unique set of problems for the places in the film.

Part of the film is set in the Sicilian village of Corleone, where the character of mob boss Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, was born and raised before immigrating to New York City.

Artist Maria D. Rapicavoli, who studied the place Corleone, said that many tourists go in search of the atmosphere of “The Godfather”, but leave disappointed if they do not meet mafiosi.

“I’m not sure what they’re looking for—perhaps for men with guns on the street or… women in black?” she told CNBC.

Rapicavoli explored her experiences there in an exhibit titled “If You Saw What I Saw,” writing that Corleone is a place where people “play the roles of actors to an audience of discerning tourists as if their city were a permanent film set.”

In describing the exhibition, she told people she met: a Polish tourist who was looking for “The Godfather’s village”, a Canadian who liked to be in a “real mafia atmosphere” and a tourist guide who gave lessons about the Italian mafia .

Ironically, the film was not even shot in Corleone, but in the Sicilian villages of Savoca and Forza d’Agro.

The popularity of “The Godfather”, as well as “Goodfellas” and The untouchables‘ has also caused problems in the United States. Some argue that those movies unfairly stereotype Italian Americans as violent and misogynistic criminals for the millions of viewers who watched them.

reckless behavior

“The hangoverand the depictions of drug-addicted, wild bachelorette parties can encourage reckless behavior in Las Vegas. People try to recreate famous scenes in the film, including sneaking up to the roof and asking where to find live tigers, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.

People still quote the famous line “Did Caesar Live Here?” in the main lobby of Caesars Palace, a hotel representative told CNBC. Others ask to stay in the “Hangover Suite” – even though those parts of the movie were shot on a movie set.

Tour packages and recreated sets in Las Vegas allow fans of the trilogy to relive the movie without the chaos.

On the other side of the Atlantic, movie fans are defying local laws.

Since the release of the famous Italian film director Federico Fellini’s “The good lifeIn 1960, inspired tourists recreated the film’s most memorable scene by climbing into Rome’s Trevi Fountain. To this day – some 60 years later – the Italian authorities continue to struggle with overzealous fans, some of whom proudly dresses and fur stoles as she waded around the fountain.

Other incidents were more chaotic. Tourists have been caught swimming and splashing, sometimes stripped naked. Others have tried to climb on the sculptures or carve their names in it them, endangering the architecture.

Rome authorities have begun cracking down on intruders and have increased fines of up to 450 euros ($527) for disorderly conduct around the fountain, according to Italian media reports.

In 2020, a plan to build a 1-meter-tall steel and glass barrier around the fountain’s perimeter was approved by Rome’s city council, but met heavy criticism from heritage experts who feared it would ruin the view.

overtourism

New Zealand has experienced tremendous growth in tourism thanks to “The Lord of the Rings” and “the hobbit” trilogies.

In what’s been called “Tolkien tourism,” travelers look for locations where the films were shot, such as Matamata — which served as the Shire — and the scenic reserve in Queenstown where Boromir’s character died prematurely.

One in three New Zealand visitors in 2019 visited at least one film set, according to Tourism New Zealand, the country’s tourism authority. That same year, more than one in ten went to Hobbiton, which gives tours of Hobbit’s homes.

According to Tourism New Zealand, the films are the reason that about 10% of all visitors to New Zealand in 2019 seriously considered a trip there. Those travelers added about 630 million New Zealand dollars ($437 million) to the country’s economy in 2019 alone, the tourism authority told CNBC.

However, a survey by the Tourism Bureau found that nearly one in five Kiwis fear the country attracts too many tourists. According to a 2019 report by Tourism New Zealand, overcrowding in tourist spots, lack of infrastructure, traffic congestion and environmental damage are causing tensions between locals and visitors.

Popularized by Leonardo DiCaprio’s adventure drama “The beach,Maya Bay on Thailand’s Phi Phi Leh Island was closed to visitors in 2018 after a spike in tourists damaged the island’s surroundings.

After the film’s release in 2000, the once deserted bay became a popular day trip destination for tourists from Phuket and Krabi. Tourists, reportedly up to 5,000 a day, traveled to the area by boats, leaving behind litter and pollution that harms local wildlife and coral.

About three years later, Maya Bay remains closed. Some visitors have been allowed to explore the island as part of a reopening test, a Thailand tourism representative told CNBC.

Exaggerated Impact

Movie tourism doesn’t always get out of hand.

Coming out of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015) and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017) significantly boosted interest in Ireland’s Skellig Michael, an island featured in both films.

Nearly 17,000 people visited the island in 2018, according to the Irish Office of Public Works that oversees the site – an increase from the 11,100 visitors who visited a decade earlier.

However, contrary to media reports, UNESCO does not view the increase in tourists as a threat to the site.

Mechtild Rossler, the director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, said UNESCO has contacted Ireland about increased tourism in Skellig Michael following the release of the “Star Wars” films.

“Ireland has informed the World Heritage Center that there has been an increase in visitors to the area on the mainland, but this is not reflected in the numbers visiting the island itself,” she said.

Skellig Michael is open from May to September, but tourists are limited to 180 a day, a representative from Ireland’s Office of Public Works told CNBC. That limit was imposed in 1994 and approved by UNESCO in 1995, according to a draft management plan for the site published in November 2020.

Tourist boats to the island are also restricted and require special permits to operate, Rossler said.

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