What role does the media play in encouraging or discouraging tourism to particular destinations? Popular mediums of media including film, television, internet and print media can influence the appeal of certain travel destinations and activities. It can prompt a desire or avert tourism destinations as suggested by MacCannell (1976) these media forms can highly construct or highlight particular images of destinations to act as a marker. Prospective tourists base their knowledge on such information provided whether to travel or not to particular destinations. Film induced tourism can also bring about an increase in the cultural value of the film location being heritage sites. Firstly, in the case of New Zealand’s Maori culture has gained recognisable status through media exposure. The film Whale Rider (2002) for instance thoroughly demonstrates the Maori culture. In customary Maori culture the beliefs, clothing, animals, plants and certain landforms are spiritually linked with particular groups of individuals. The film represents this through the whales being the ancient symbol for the Ngati Konohi community.
Thus, by maintaining a sense of identity it offers an opportunity for individuals to reflect and provide expressions of self. Additionally, this film can attract individuals strongly interested in culture especially of New Zealand’s Maori culture. As well as this heritage sites which have been set as film locations gain fame and recognition by its audience after the release of the film. These locations often gain meaning through film narration. For example Mission Impossible 2 (2000) was filmed at the Sydney Royal National Park. Due to the popularity of the film series an increase of visits to the park occurred during 2000 the year the film was released. Hence, can be evidently seen media plays a major role in encouraging tourism to certain destinations. However, with the expansion of different types of visitors to a destination it could also provoke an adjusted behaviour in tourists (Smith et al, 2010). The world heritage site in Angkor, Cambodia had been utilised and set up as a location for the adventure film Tomb Raider. Tourists who had viewed and felt a sense of yearning to visit the location of the film were discovered climbing on the ancient sanctuary temple walls in order to attempt and imitate the protagonist.
This kind of media coverage creates a negative impact on the site as tourists are not respecting or obliging to conservation plans set out for the site. The inappropriate manner can additionally provoke iconic pieces or souvenirs to be removed from the film induced tourism locations so as to be able to efficiently oblige with conservation plans. “Media based tourism can bring additional income and jobs to an area and in particular can provide opportunities for selling souvenirs/merchandising and spin-off services such as themed tours and services” (Smith et al, 2010 p.73). This is evident in many tourist destinations including Thailand and the film The Beach. It has created a strong stimulation of desires for people to visit the film location in addition to the surrounding areas of Thailand. Due to the large tourism activity, tour companies have taken advantaged and advertised various tours which circuits various film based locations and entitled them The Beach Tours (Law et al 2007). Extraordinariness can also be added to entice travellers such as recounting stories and gossip within the tours about the production of The Beach.
Also the Footsteps on the Beach website was created which sells Thailand to a more mass audience as well as reach potential tourists to visit Thailand through images and meaning. Desires can also be a reason why individuals choose to travel in the first place. Therefore, by creating strong desires and adding extraordinariness through media exposure it further encourages individuals to travel. The idea of a journey with fun filled experience can also prompt an encouragement to travel and explore destinations. There are numerous journey narratives exposed starting from early childhood years. Journey narratives are stories which are structured around a physical journey. Along the way individuals reflect and grow to develop a stronger understanding of self. For instance contemporary narratives of Eat Pray Love or Lord of the Rings. Characters undertake a journey in order to discover a purpose through the meaningful experiences occurred on the way. These encourage a desire for otherness and difference attracting the explorer and drifter tourists.
This is due to the fact such tourists do not mind getting off the beaten tracks, leaving the environmental bubble voluntarily and preferring a novelty experience (Cohen 2004). Many of these media have influenced young individuals to travel as they have gotten older. Thus children’s stories are a major motivator for individuals to travel as it’s the first contact many individuals have in terms of media and tourism. Additionally, journey narratives are powerful motivators as individuals seek out tourism destinations. Riley et al (1992) have distinguished the downsides of main concern as the exploitation of locals and visitors, expanding costs, absence of readiness of locals when managing with the high tourist influx, the way the location differs from the way it is portrayed in the forms of media bringing about a loss of tourist fulfilment and satisfaction and the various effects of souvenir hunters particularly those who consume signs and markers. These components relate to the film induced tourism audience and ever expanding tourist visitations to such locations. An important and ambiguous issue to be considered when arguing views of film induced tourism is that of the actual versus the envisioned images as created by the media.
Butler (1990) indicates that in a number of times films are not shot at the locations they imply to be. For instance the Philippines was adopted to portray Vietnam in the 1986 Vietnam War film Platoon. This then creates a condition where the general audience are constructing their knowledge on false information and developing false expectations and desires of destinations they decide to visit. It can be argued that much of the expectations in tourism is created with what is presented and viewed in the media. These expectations are developed overtime due to the mass promotions, guidebooks and stories of tourism travel from documentaries and films. The information provided is usually of implied promises. Boorstin (1972) suggests these pseudo-events are responsible for the inauthenticity of the tourism industry.
Commentators suggest that media tourism is a clear example of post-tourism (Smith et al, 2010 p.74) and the visitor perspectives of locations are somewhat of a giant cinema screen suggesting the inauthenticity of a place. Consequently, resulting in tourists’ dissatisfaction with their travel experiences. As an outcome tension is created and discourages tourists from visiting certain destinations. A further case of the immediate complications that media production can bring can be evident in Thailand. Here 20th century Fox filmed The Beach. In order to prepare the site for production and to begin filming the beach was demolished and widened with much of the native vegetation and a mass amount of rubbish from the isolated beach also being removed. The destruction of the natural environment became a major concern. The landscape was modified so “the global cinematic audience is offered an idealised journey in a fantasy space, one based on a ‘dream’ of the tropics” (Law et al 2007). In doing so Higgins-Desbiolles (2001) claims it tarnished the Thai Government, damaged the reputation of Twentieth Century Fox, sparked a desire for travel within the young fan base and opened up the opportunities for companies to promote themselves.
However, the major benefit that came out of this production was that it boosted the Thailand economy by an estimated US$150000. Clearly the media plays a role in both encouraging and discouraging tourists to visit certain destinations based on their tourist gazes. The tourist gaze was founded by Urry who outlines is a visual nature of tourism. It refers to “the way in which tourists seek out and consume visual images and the means by which the tourism industry organises and directs this consumption” (Smith 2010 p.174). The gaze can be seen as having a positive outcome on tourism destinations. Bruno (1997) explains that viewers of media are in a way acting like tourists. Having viewed certain television shows such as The Amazing Race the audience feel a compelling motivation to go and travel as well due to the depicted images in the show. However, it can also demotivate in terms of negative publicity placed on certain locations. For instance many individuals avoid the Middle East regions due to sudden eruptions of conflict such as war and terrorist attacks.
Many news reports have displayed images of such risks. This information is then publicly revealed to a mass audience including potential tourists. Resulting in tourists rethinking about their destination choices and seeking other locations instead. Tourism is a key component of popular culture and is fed and feeds from the media which both circulates and produces culture. The power of media especially film and television can motivate travellers, create new images, alter negative images and create and placing icons on maps is recognised as a major factor in promoting tourism travel. Through the analysis of the film The Beach as well as various researchers including Law, Smith and Urry a further understanding is established in terms of media and the influence it can have on tourism whether in positive or negative conducts. As evident media does play a major role in deciding tourist destinations.
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