Prince Rupert received fantastic exposure when Inland Air was featured on a recent episode of The Big Decision. In the past couple of years we’ve also seen Canadian shows Dragon’s Den, Flavours of the West Coast, The Opener all shot in Prince Rupert. We also see a fairly steady stream of international shows. TPR worked on an episode of The Travel Guys shot here this summer.
Not all of these TV productions have a particular tourism focus, but it’s all good exposure. The more times Prince Rupert appears on television, the more other filmmakers are exposed to the opportunity.
I see it as a gradual process of awareness. Sure, one could produce expensive profiles that target the film industry, and slowly build relationships with individual producers. I don’t think that this could ever be as effective, or cost effective, as a producer seeing the destination actually work in other projects. A decade ago, when there was more money available for marketing, Prince Rupert had its own film commission. There were some successes at that time – my memory fails me as to the extent of this, but I do recall a TV commercial for Interac being shot at Cow Bay Café and other locations around town.
The goal, of course, is to make the gradual transition to having a film, or television series, shot in the Northwest.
In an address to the International Conference on Impact of Movies & Television on Tourism, Hong Kong Commissioner for Tourism Margaret Fong began her comments by pointing out writers have always driven tourism – beginning (somewhat tenuously) with Marco Polo influencing Columbus right through to the international phenomenon of Anne of Green Gables. “If a book can have such an impact, and a picture is worth a thousand words,” she said, “then the power of moving pictures is only limited by our imagination.” As she pointed out, “Movies even have the power to catapult less known destinations to the limelight as Slumdog Millionaire did for Dharavi. The ethics of such ‘reality tourism’ may be the subject of a separate debate but the impact of movies on tourism is evident.”
I’m sure that almost everyone is familiar with the effect of the Lord of the Rings trilogy on New Zealand tourism. That’s just one example. The figures can be truly staggering. In her book Film-Induced Tourism author Sue Beeton says, “While figures relating directly to the impact that films (both movies and television series) have on tourism are limited, there is still some impressive data. In 1978, the year after Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released, visitation to Devil’s Tower National Monument increased by a staggering 74%, while in a survey conducted 11 years after the film’s premiere, one-fifth of respondents attributed their initial knowledge of the monument to the movie.”
She also commented that in the 1980s US visits to Australia increased by over 20% per annum thanks at least in part to Mad Max, Crocodile Dundee and The Man from Snowy River. And “tourist interest in visiting the sites of the Western movie, Shane, was prevalent 40 years after its filming, and that when television programmes move to syndication and Pay TV, they enjoy extended periods of public exposure.”
We do a certain amount of this work every year. In my time at Tourism Prince Rupert we have had success with Canadian and international productions. We’ve hosted crews from England, France and Australia, to name just a few. Special interest programs, such as those filmed in the Khutzeymateen, increase in number with each passing year. With television, our investment is low, and the potential pay-off is high.