Since the film Salmon Fishing in the Yemen leapt onto the UK’s cinema screens, the Yemen Tourist Board has been swamped by enquiries from keen Salmon fishing fans. So much so that the Yemen tourist board has let the world know that while there’s plenty of sea fishing to enjoy, the Yemen’s climate is not good for Salmon. But it is good for tourists and this film is putting Yemen on the tourist map.
There are plenty of previous examples of the effect of a film on its location. Remember the remake of Casino Royale with Daniel Craig? Montenegro websites reportedly saw a fivefold increase in hits as a result of the film and the film’s promotional virals. The irony being, of course, that the ‘Hotel Splendide’, which enjoys Bond and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) as its guests, is to be found in the town of Karlovy Vary in Bohemia in the west Czech Republic and the ‘Casino Royale’ is the town’s old Kaiserbad Spa. And guess what? The fabulous scenes in ‘Salmon Fishing’ are shot in Morocco and not the Yemen.
But that’s not the point. Create an image and / or a personality around a location through smart communications ideas be they moving or still image as somewhere rare, beautiful, rugged, startling, exotic, exciting, ‘other worldly’ – I could go on – and it strikes a chord and people want to go.
It’s one of the reasons countries offer tax incentives to film companies in the knowledge that it will stimulate interest and increase tourism. And it’s not just film but television series and video games too. In March’s budget speech, George Osborne said the government aims to bring in a tax credit to cover video games, animation and high-end TV program production to mirror the country’s current film tax credit system in place to the end of 2015.
It’s a good move. Danish TV series such as The Killing and Borgen have also generated an increase in tourist interest for Denmark and, with the arrival of ‘The Bridge’, who now doesn’t want to drive across that graceful sweeping 8km Öresund Bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo, Sweden, corpse(s) or no corpse(s)?
This principle also stretches to the endorsement from well known respected people – not just celebrities – who have built a following and are trusted. They can persuade many that a place is worth visiting or an experience worth enjoying. When British and Irish Lions coach, Sir Ian McGeechan, penned a feature for the Daily Telegraph on behalf of a client cruise company the response was terrific
The excitement the film has created around Yemen is good news for a disadvantaged country, little known in the UK. According to Benjamin Carey, who specialises in sustainable tourism and international marketing at Dunira Strategy and is spokesperson for the Yemen: “Yemen is hugely disadvantaged and tourism represents an outstanding opportunity, especially for women and young people in rural areas, to find an alternative livelihood.”
It is a pity then that the film comes at a time when The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice on the Yemen is that we ‘avoid all travel to the whole country’. And while the F&C office may feel it’s best to be over cautious it could undermine the much-needed benefits of the film and, as Carey points out, it doesn’t square with “the UK’s stated aim of promoting sustainable economic development.”
But here I am wondering where to go for next holiday that’ll inspire and excite and challenge me so that I’ll get that ‘it’s good to be alive’ feeling and what springs to mind? Now the Yemen, there’s a place I wouldn’t have thought of…