Movie making is good for tourism

Although you may have never have read J R Tolkein, you are probably one of the tens of millions of people around the world who have seen at least one of the three Lord of the Rings movies. If you are, you will almost certainly remember the stunning scenery that provided the backdrop.

All were filmed in New Zealand with support from that country’s tourism board and government and caused hundreds of thousands of travellers to visit the country from around the world.

At a quite different level, a relatively obscure but historic small town in England’s south-west and its dramatic nearby coastline now receives visitors year-round because of a hugely popular television series ‘Broadchurch’, so that today there are associated vacations, tours, a trail, and quite literally dozens of websites promoting the locality as a mini-destination.

Surprisingly, the Caribbean has yet to fully embrace the idea that movie making, whether for cinema, television, or commercials can help deliver significant numbers of additional visitors, if the relevant ministries, agencies and local industries are prepared to work with those who make and finance movies.

Attracting international productions to film on location is in general good for a country’s economy. It brings foreign exchange; significant short-term local expenditure; offers employment to a wide range of individuals from carpenters to fashion designers, caterers, lawyers and accountants; draws in other film, TV and commercial makers; and through exposure to best practice, helps enhance local skill levels, develops talent, and supports the creation of a sustainable domestic movie industry.

It is also brings significant short and long-term gains for tourism.

In the short-term, movie makers create a substantial demand for accommodation, catering and transport. Those who work in the industry note for example that there must be quality hotel and villa accommodation available to house, often for weeks and sometimes months, the expensive talent involved, and the crew.  An able and efficient local service industry partner is essential to look after the complex, demanding and time sensitive requirements of a high-budget production. Good quality transport is required to reach the sites where the movie is to be shot and there also has to be quality on-location catering.

But it is in the longer term big budget movies in particular offer other more significant lasting opportunities, particularly if the location chosen or offered then comes to be seen by moviegoers as a must-visit destination.

As a fascinating on-line academic paper ‘Tourist See Tourist Do: The Influence of Hollywood Movies and Television on Tourism Motivation and Activity Behaviour’ points out: movie making has brought with it a ‘dynamic change in the world in terms of fashion, social status, behaviour, marketing, and tourism’ bringing with it a new marketing channel of consumer goods and services such as tourism.

For the most part, attracting international movie makers involves government developing a package of incentives and rebates. Despite this, some in the Caribbean are reluctant to understand the value, or the factors that draw international movie makers to choose where to film.

Jamaica for example has not seen any major foreign investment in film production since 2013, the year in which government under IMF pressure ended all fiscal incentives. Although the island’s new Fiscal Incentives Act offers capital allowances and relief on the importation of ‘tools of trade’, nothing has been put in place to replace the island’s Motion Picture Encouragement Act to encourage international movie makers to use the country as a location.

Speaking about this recently, Diane Edwards, the President of JAMPRO, said that encouraging movie making again in Jamaica will not only bring direct economic benefits and help tourism, but will also secure more jobs for Jamaicans working in the film industry, help sell the country’s creative outputs, and enlarge international awareness. Her hope is that a private equity fund now being discussed might become the vehicle for a rebate system that would once again put the island back on the map for movie makers.

To date, the tourism sector in the region has said little on the topic at either a national or regional level. This should change. The value of film induced tourism, aligned with national incentives has a strong pedigree. It requires the industry’s serious study and support.


David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at

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7th March 2018


The views and opinions expressed in the Business of Tourism are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Caribbean Council.