By Tom Seligson
The African savannah was as mesmerizing in person as it was on the screen. I remember having that thought when I was there on safari a few years back. Driving along dusty roads in search of lions, water buffalo, and other wild creatures, I couldn’t help comparing the animals and expansive scenery to what I’d seen in the film “Out of Africa.” That Meryl Streep/Robert Redford blockbuster no doubt did wonders for the safari business. Hollywood does that. Travelers often chose their destinations from what they’ve seen in the movies. Woody Allen has made so many cinematic love letters to New York that it’s hard not to see one without itching to spend a Saturday afternoon in Central Park, enjoy a pastrami sandwich in some deli, or just stand on a street corner and watch the sea of New York faces roll by.
This year, like always, Hollywood will be spreading its promotional magic all over the world. Knowing the impact films have on tourism, foreign governments vie for their attention. The production itself is good for business. That’s why Dubai is excited that “Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol” is being shot there; Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and a crew of 400 will be spending lots of American dollars during filming. However, the big pay-off will hopefully come following the film’s release this coming December. The hope is that film-goers will become so inspired by the country’s unique combination of beaches, deserts, and ultra-modern skyscrapers that they’ll put United Arab Emirates on their “to go” list.
Romania is another country you may be inspired to visit after a night at the movies. “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” starring Nicolas Cage, is filming there right now, shooting everywhere from the modern city of Bucharest to the colorful region of Transylvania, a land of mountains, medieval castles and, of course, home to the legendary fictional vampire Count Dracula. The original film “Dracula,” shot in 1930, and starring Bela Lugosi, first depicted Transylvania as a haven for vampires, an image perpetrated by subsequent Dracula films. Tourists still come expecting to visit a land of frightening wolves and superstitious peasants. Despite the region’s modern cities, you’ll still breathe in Transylvania’s air of mystery, a reputation bound to be reinforced by the new “Ghost Rider” film. Afterall, Cage is called upon to stop the devil, who is trying to take human form.
Two popular books turned into movies will also send tourists flocking to the scene of the films, primarily because of the extraordinary scenery captured on the big screen. The latest Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is set in Wales, and showcases the lush rolling hills and craggy coastal landscape that distinguish this small country overlooking the Atlantic and the Irish Sea. The film’s release this summer allows visitors time to visit while the weather is still warm. The production of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” is just beginning, but it’s no surprise the director chose New Zealand, with its stunning mountain ranges, to stage the battle scenes so central to this sword and sorcery epic. New Zealand’s rugged beauty has made it a popular destination for adventure travelers, but the release of “The Hobbit” late next year, will have kids of all ages setting their sights on the Kiwi nation.
I can’t remember when Sweden was last a popular film location, probably not since Ingmar Bergman was turning out his psychologically probing films. Considering the international success of the novel, a Hollywood version of “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” was inevitable. The dark mystery, starring Daniel Craig, will showcase the full range of Sweden’s charms, from the farmlands of Uppsala to the cosmopolitan island city of Stockholm. Swedes themselves – particularly Swedish men – are not cast in the most favorable light, but the Swedish tourist boards are still likely to appreciate the boost the film will have on tourism. The book has millions of fans, many of whom will be eager to trace the main character’s investigation throughout the country.
If tourist boards get excited about an upcoming film promoting their destination, they get giddy at the prospect of two such films. Any moviegoer who doesn’t already appreciate the natural beauty of British Columbia may change his mind in the next twelve months, even though both films are about someplace else. In “The Thing,” a Sci-Fi thriller, the Canadian province is supposed to be Antarctica, and in “The Grey,” it’s posing as Alaska. Of course, the film credits will reveal the truth, and anyone moved by the challenging environment up there on the screen will know where to go to enjoy it.
In the next year, you’ll also be able to visit Cape Town in the movie “Dredd,” Barcelona in “11-11-11,” or Hong Kong in “The Man with the Iron Fists.” Hollywood has the world covered, which could actually pose a problem for travelers, creating a sense of “been there, done that,” from all that they’ve seen. However, if my experience in Africa is any indication, Hollywood may inspire us to go someplace, but nothing is more entertaining, adventurous, and exciting than traveling there for real.
Photo credits: Photo of Burj Khalifa in Dubai courtesy of DTCM North America.