Stay tuned… Katherine Lawrey looks at how piggybacking off travel-related TV shows can be a boon for business
The greatest TV programmes get us all talking – whether we are watching incredible footage of wildlife in natural history programmes narrated by David Attenborough or Jane McDonald having a fine old time as she cruises around the world’s most scenic coastlines.
There’s no doubt that TV can inspire us to travel. Appearing on the Hollywood big screen – and countless smaller screens via DVD – did wonders for New Zealand’s tourism industry: 13% of all international visitors surveyed between July 2013 and June 2014 said The Hobbit was a factor in stimulating their interest in New Zealand as a destination. Sex and the City tours are still running in New York, 14 years after the final episode aired; and Croatia’s overnight arrivals jumped by 12% last year, thanks in part to the runaway success of Game of Thrones, which has scenes filmed in Dubrovnik (which doubled as one of the principal locations, King’s Landing), nearby Trsteno Arboretum and Klis Fortress, some 20 minutes north of Split.
So what can you do to ride off the back of these waves of interest when they come along?
First, you need to make sure that your training is up to date. There are a bunch of TV stars who have done a wonderful job at promoting certain destinations – think Joanna Lumley for Japan and India, Sue Perkins for the Mekong and the Ganges, and Levison Wood for the Himalayas and the Nile. These are all fairly niche destinations – so once you spot these one-off series looming in the TV previews, contact the relevant operators and book that training in.
Lucy Ellingham, partner area sales manager, Kuoni, says: “If an agent comes to us with a particular destination that has been pushed as a result of a TV programme (Joanna Lumley in Japan was by far the most prominent), then we can see if we can source offers featuring those destinations to entice people to come in and discuss the destination with the store. We also offer training if it’s not a destination that the agent feels comfortable with.
“It’s worth jumping on the bandwagon as soon as the trailers start to air,” she adds.
Make use of online resources too. Croatia Tourism Board has a section of its website devoted to Game of Thrones exploration, with a behind-the-scenes video that’s a must-watch for fans of the series (tinyurl.com/y6wntmcr). Not to be outdone, Discover Northern Ireland also has a hub devoted to Game of Thrones tours and experiences (tinyurl.com/y8lf6y8s). Use it to research ideas ranging from a Game of Thrones afternoon tea at Ballygally Castle Hotel to a Game of Thrones archery experience at Winterfell Castle.
The cruise industry has had some great TV publicity of late. Earlier this year Princess Cruises had two bites of the cherry, with its own The Cruise programme on ITV, filmed onboard Royal Princess, pulling in at least 3.6 million viewers per episode, and an episode of Channel 5’s Cruising with Jane McDonald, filmed onboard Ruby Princess in California.
Rachel Poultney, director, sales – UK & Europe, points out that the line advised agents to get behind the two TV programmes to ensure they made the most of the opportunities presented.
“The Cruise and Cruising with Jane McDonald are fantastic adverts for not only Princess Cruises but
for the industry as a whole. During the airing of these programmes, we see a big increase in our social media engagement, so this is a fantastic platform for agents to jump on.
“An agent could send emails to their database to tell them about the programmes, they could join the online conversation and post deals on social media to entice engagement. There are people out there wanting to know more about cruising off the back of watching the television shows and agents should get involved to convert this into bookings.”
The Cruise returns this evening with a three-part series on Alaska.
Don’t assume that just because a show has finished, you’ve missed a slice of the pie. One of the biggest TV hits of the past 12 months has been BBC’s Blue Planet II.
First Class Holidays’ product manager, Brian Hawe, explains: ”It’s often been the case that a TV programme can spike interest in a destination for a while, but the effect of Blue Planet II was quite phenomenal. Interest in all our wildlife adventure holidays shot through the roof and we’ve not seen the spike that we normally see – the interest is still there even though the programme has stopped airing.”
The series featured all kinds of marvels from both shallow waters and hidden depths, but it was whale watching that saw the sharpest increase in bookings, with First Class Holidays noticing the ripple effect stretching from Canada to New Zealand and Australia.
Adam Hanmer, travel trade manager, Destination Canada, adds: “The excellent camerawork of Blue Planet II really inspires those close encounters, and there are ways in Canada to recreate that experience. A pod of about 3,000 beluga whales spends the summer in Hudson
Bay, and you can get really close to them, with companies offering tours by kayak, paddle board and Zodiac, and even the chance to snorkel with them. Alternatively, on the West Coast close to Vancouver, you can kayak among killer whale pods. The Bay of Fundy (between
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) is a real hotspot for whale watching too. Because of its high tides, it generates plenty of food sources
for whales, and you often see several species in one trip, including humpback, minke and finback whales, which means different behaviours. It’s really worth agents promoting these experiences in their windows and in their digital newsletters off the back of Blue Planet II, while it’s fresh in people’s minds.”
Social media is an easy win when it comes to TV shows. Make sure you have your deals ready to post while the show is going out or straight after.
Russell Cox, commercial manager, Midcounties Co-operative Travel, says: “We know consumers regularly now have a second screen open when they watch TV, to follow the chat on social media, so it’s good to catch them right at that moment, when they are inspired by the TV programme and engaged with social media.”
Midcounties Co-op agents have had success posting deals off the back of these programmes:
Wild Alaska Live – BBC
Joanna Lumley’s India – ITV
Cruising with Jane McDonald – Channel 5
Great British Railway Journeys, presented by Michael Portillo – BBC
The Wine Show – Channel 5