As simple as the name sounds, pop-culture (popular culture) tourism is one of the most diverse concepts in the contemporary tourism dictionary. The role of pop-culture in molding a destination’s image is almost like an autonomous travel agent. However, studies and researchers have found that the destination image induced by pop-culture has a positive impact on travelers.
A rapidly growing Tourism niche
With the extensive coverage of media in every field, it has become relatively easier to find out about our favorite global stars. So whether it’s a novel or film destination, there is no denying the charm in revisiting the actual places which you otherwise have read only in books or seen in movies. Heritage, culture, sports, health, nature, festival etc. are some of the major elements that form the indigenous interest in tourism. And, the “travelers who visit a destination to pursue their special interests in a particular region or destination” form a tribe of special interest tourists. This niche tourism labeling is especially significant when the government needs to identify its future tourism strategies. So, tourism which emerges from popular cultural phenomena such as films, books, music is called pop-culture tourism and the enthusiasts as pop-culture tourists.
While others like to define it as a culture which is liked by many and it is different from “fine culture” in the context of mass production and mass consumption, this probably a culture by the people and for the people which is accessible and commercial.
Lord of the Rings revolutionized inbound tourism in New Zealand as Dracula did in Romania. Twilight Saga destinations, the homeland and burial site of Elvis Presley, are some of the other examples which shows the potential of pop-culture tourism in boosting a destination brand value. It needs a holistic approach to find out the link between the aspects of this tourism and its significance. However, with the dawn of popular media channels such as internet, films, music, the scope for new pop-culture tourism ideas are gaining prominence. The uniqueness of the place is yet another contributing factor to make it an emerging pop culture destination.
Characteristics of pop-culture tourism
Popular culture has a complex impact on the formation of a destination image. The co-existence of global popular cultural phenomena and the regional economies help augment the optimistic brand image of destinations, media industries as well as fan cultures. As new kinds of rationales are allowed to visit localities featured in literature, movies and other media, the impact on the development of a destination and its competitiveness also increases.
Film tourism, literary tourism and other popular cultural phenomena have evoked leisure travelers more than business travelers. So, despite the accelerating popularity of pop culture induced tourism, it is not right to term it as a global scale tourism experience. This is prevalent primarily amongst the fans and fan communities.
It is not always essential to be fully aware of a specific destination. It might so happen that an individual is interested in cinema in general but does not have any one particular favorite. In such cases, it is the demographic motives of the place and the tourist that come in sync to create the surge for exploring pop culture destination.
While some tourists travel to satiate their utilitarian interest, others look purely for the hedonistic value of the destination. The future visit might not necessarily depend on any event in particular as the main attraction but the past feel-good value counts.
It is a demand driven tourism and tourists associated with these destinations tend to create strong emotional ties to the destination visited. What the traditional push-pull model suggests, fan and fan culture motives are far more complicated as they are based on a constructed reality. Mainly because of this, the effects on travel industry based on fans’ interest in pop culture tourism are slotted only to the creative industries.
Although fan responses in pop culture tourism are a major driving quotient, these fans do not exist in isolation. Technology mediation thus, involves a fulcrum role where with the Web 2.0 applications; these fans share the constant flow of updates. Internet is definitely a reliable and powerful source to understand the strength and weakness of any destination image.
Pop-culture Tourist Destinations
From The Da Vinci Code to Harry Potter, pop culture’s glamorizing representations are the new-age destination marketing concept. Like it or hate it, but no one can definitely ignore this whole new way of experiencing real places.
Tourists are also lured by nostalgia, melancholy and elation that are evoked by music. The intangible yet highly personal phenomena create immense satisfaction and add to the general value of tourism experiences.
The places, which can’t even be said to exist de facto like the Paris of Amélie, Harry Potter’s England, the Notting Hill of the 1999 film of the same name serves as an incredible driving source of tourists. Volterra and Montepulciano is major Italian destination which was shown in Twilight Saga. A themed visitor attraction called The Beatles Story attracts a large number of Beatles fans, till date, to Liverpool.
Similarly, Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California has been a popular attraction for Hollywood buffs for years, driving millions of dollars each year in tourism revenue for the state of California and the US at large – all thanks to the visual white lies which are letting these dollars flow!
It’s weird to find out that more the pop culture purports as a real life incident, the more is the experience of fandom – the more is the demand to find out the place what the book or the novel told us!
But probably at the end of the day, it is the bucolic charm or the divine hilly appeal of the place which creates the feeling of tranquility within us and not the movie or the book memories!
While some people might find pop-culture tourism as an ostentatious trend, there is no denying the fact that this particular vogue has found much popularity among the tourists and destination marketers alike. However, despite the multifarious relationship among the pop culture phenomena and the huge converging tourism concept, this field is weakly theorized till date.
The broader sociological aspects involved with the pop-culture tourism, especially with elements such as symbolic consumption, technology mediation, fans, fandom and their fad, media convergence etc – tourism researchers and experts can look for unique points and trends in the upcoming tourism sector scenario.
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