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28 Nov, 2003

Star-Power Strikes At WTM 2003

Hollywood actor Michael Douglas turned up at the WTM 2003 to promote the Balearics, where he has a mansion. That was only the tip of a mountain of marketing efforts being made by destinations to build on star-power.

– From the World Travel Market 2003 in London

Seventh in a series of dispatches taking an in-depth look at the issues, policies, strategies and trends that emerged at one of the world’s largest travel trade shows.

In this dispatch:

1. STAR-POWER STRIKES WTM 2003: Hollywood actor Michael Douglas turned up at the WTM 2003 to promote the Balearics, where he has a mansion. That was only the tip of a mountain of marketing efforts being made by destinations to build on star-power. New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Hong Kong and Malta are among the many capitalising on the opportunity.



    The Spanish Balearic Islands pulled off a major publicity coup when the actor Michael Douglas turned up on 12 November at the WTM stand to promote the islands. The President of the Balearic Government, Jaime Matas, was also supposed to be at the stand. However, the WTM’s daily travel newspaper gave front-page billing to the well-groomed, charismatic star, along with a huge picture — and ignored the President.

    Dozens of tourism ministers, princesses and assorted other big-wigs turn up at the WTM every year. Last year, it was the Queen of Jordan. But there’s nothing like star-power to grab the eyeballs.

    Douglas told the hundreds of star-struck WTM delegates that he has been visiting Majorca for the last 25 years and owns a country house. In 2003, he created the Cultural Centre Costa Nord in one of the most privileged places of Majorca, in Valldemossa, a village that over the last two centuries has been an occasional residence for personalities like the composer Frederic Chopin, the writer Ruben Dario and the Archduke Luis Salvador of Austria.

    Douglas talked of his love for the Balearics. His wife Catherine Zeta Jones and their two young children love spending time in the region. “We love going to the Balearics and we will be going back very soon. Our favourite time is February.” He added: “The islands are an exciting crossroads. So many cultures came here and left a lasting impression.” He also announced that he has sold the cultural centre to the Balearics’ government for 3.3 million pounds and in exchange will spend the next four years promoting the islands, making a total of 12 appearances at various events.

    Travel Weekly reported that tourist chiefs of the Balearics are keen to boost business in the Balearics during the shoulder season and Douglas’ remarks -beamed all around the world – will be sure to drive home the message. The region has suffered bad press over the past couple of years because of its controversial introduction of a tourism ecotax. The 70p-a-day tax — introduced on May 1, 2002 — was unpopular for a number of reasons. It was brought in too quickly, without giving operators time to adjust their brochures. The tax also only applied to people staying in hotels, not visitors in villas or private accommodation. There were also questions over whether the money was actually going to the good causes it was set up for. The ecotax was scrapped this summer following the election of a new Balearics government.



      On 1 December 2003, Hollywood stars, movie moguls and thousands of fans from around the globe will gather in Director Peter Jackson’s home town of Wellington, New Zealand, for the world premiere of the final episode in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

      The country’s capital city, dubbed ‘Wellywood’ by the locals, will welcome back the entire cast of The Return of the King, including Sir Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom and Liv Tyler, for a huge celebration that will bring the city to a standstill. The premiere will take place at the Embassy Theatre, a famous 80-year old historic building which is being renovated specially for the premiere to recapture the look of the 1920s Art Deco cinema paradiso it once was.

      Since Peter Jackson chose his homeland to film The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the impact on the country’s profile as a filmmaking and tourism destination has been immense. The first two films, which have been some of the highest grossing of all time, have helped increase visitor figures substantially from the UK and the rest of the world, with UK visitor numbers reaching over 250,000 for the first time. A blossoming industry has been created from The Lord of the Rings related tourism, where people can walk, jetboat, horse-ride, helicopter or four-wheel drive to where filming took place.

      The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook, compiled by Rings fanatic Ian Brodie, was New Zealand’s fastest-selling book. A revised version of the book will go on sale in the UK in December. Later this month, The Rough Guide to The Lord of the Rings, a guide to the books and the films, will be released internationally.

      Other films keeping New Zealand in the spotlight are Whale Rider and The Last Samurai. Set in a Maori village on the East Coast of the North Island, Niki Caro’s Whale Rider, has made more than NZ$30 million worldwide and has just been named number seven on a New York Times reader poll of the top ten movies of all time.

      Soon to be released in the UK, The Last Samurai stars Tom Cruise and was filmed on location in Taranaki, in the North Island. Minister of Tourism, Mark Burton, says that it is films like these that will continue building on the country’s profile.

      “Whale Rider is a film which unashamedly celebrates both New Zealand’s unique Maori culture and our well-known Kiwi spirit of independence,” he says. “In the past few months I have visited both New York City and Tokyo for screenings of this film, and audiences in both these diverse locations were blown away by both the quality of filmmaking and the beauty of New Zealand.”

      Other upcoming big-budget films to be based on location in New Zealand include Peter Jackson’s King Kong and the as-yet unconfirmed The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, to be directed by New Zealander Andrew Adamson (director of Shrek).


      Now referring to itself as “Airline to Middle-earth”, Air New Zealand is stepping up its marketing campaigns around the world in the lead-up to the third and final installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As the media limelight falls on Wellington for The Return of the King premiere, the airline will double the number of its exclusively themed aircraft flying the Middle-earth message around the world.

      Two new aircraft will be unveiled in The Return of the King imagery – bringing the number of Middle-earth aircraft to four, made up of two Boeing 747-400’s, a Boeing 767-300 and an Airbus A320. Air New Zealand’s Regional Manager for UK/Ireland Simon Bean, explained: “We’re increasing investment in innovative ideas like the Middle-earth fleet to ensure New Zealand’s linkage with the films is carried to the broadest audience during this critical period.”

      With each flying billboard representing hundreds of man-hours of detailed design and application work, the Middle-earth themed fleet represent the largest investment in themed aircraft made by the New Zealand flag-carrier. The Boeing 747-400’s will be seen regularly in London, Los Angeles and Tokyo, while the Boeing 767 will concentrate more on Asian and Pacific destinations, and the Airbus A320 will predominantly fly between New Zealand and Australia.

      Mr. Bean added: “As Airline to Middle-earth, Air New Zealand has clearly already benefited from an increased desire amongst global travellers to visit New Zealand generated during the first two parts of the motion picture trilogy. The publicity powerhouse that will be unleashed with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King will undoubtedly accelerate this growth.”

      Building on the first phase of a two-year agreement with motion picture trilogy producers New Line Cinema, Air New Zealand is also coordinating a worldwide marketing campaign to push the Middle-earth themed message forward. Research figures from Tourism New Zealand conducted amongst international visitors to New Zealand earlier this year shows almost one in ten were influenced by The Lord of the Rings motion pictures, citing the trilogy as one of the reasons they chose to visit New Zealand.



      Film tourism has become big business in Australia, with more and more blockbusters being either based or filmed Down Under. 2003 saw the release of Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo, set on the East Coast of Australia. The film, which features the voices of Barry Humphries, Eric Bana, and Ellen DeGeneres has broken all records at the US box office, taking $335.7 million in the US, and took 7.4 million pounds in the UK during its first weekend on release.

      Ken Boundy, Managing Director of the Australian Tourist Commission, said movies featuring Australia had played an important role in turning a fascination for Australia into visitation. “They play an important role in keeping our country ‘top of mind’ with the consumer. At the same time it is highly cost-effective way of telling millions of people that Australia is a great place to visit. In the past movies, like Crocodile Dundee, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Mission Impossible 2 have been hugely successful in inspiring movie goers to visit Australia.”

      Tour operators welcome film tourism as a way of driving business to Australia. Jo Williams, Bridge the World Marketing Manager, commented: “As a specialist tailor-made tour operator, we have found that there is a great deal of interest amongst our customers in travelling to places which are featured in films. We put together an ‘In Search of Nemo’ itinerary to New South Wales and Queensland on the back of Finding Nemo, and it proved extremely popular with our clients. Because of positive responses like this, film and TV links have increasing influence in how we market our products.”

      Films that are planned for production in 2004 include Baz Luhrman’s latest epic, Alexander the Great, starring Leonardo di Caprio and Nicole Kidman.

      In addition to packages promoted in the UK, attractions in Australia are capitalising on interest in movie locations. Sydney Movie Tours has just launched escorted coach tours to showcase the number of movies filmed Down Under. It includes locations from hits such as The Matrix, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Muriel’s Wedding and Babe: Pig in the City. On board, running commentary and entertainment during the tour also provides an overview of the Australian film industry. http://www.australiamovietours.com.au/



      VisitBritain and Twentieth Century Fox have joined forces to promote England’s maritime heritage in the run-up to the launch of Master and Commander, the latest Hollywood movie starring Russell Crowe.

      Inspiring people to get out and discover England’s nautical attractions this autumn, VisitBritain has launched a new Master and Commander ‘movie map’, a printed and online guide to locations used in the film and key English destinations and attractions connected to ships and shipping through the ages. The map, with information on the top maritime attractions in England, is downloadable from www.visitengland.com.

      Master and Commander – The Far Side of the World unites four-time Academy Award directing nominee Peter Weir and Oscar winner Russell Crowe (as Captain Jack Aubrey) to create an epic emotional adventure set during the Napoleonic wars. Based on the best-selling novels by Patrick O’Brian, Crowe stars as a British captain aboard a ship of Nelson’s navy 200 years ago in the film.

      The VisitBritain media team at the WTM 2003 capitalised on the attention drawn towards England’s maritime heritage to put together a list of various maritime and naval museums in the country. These included the historic tea clipper, the Cutty Sark, the Old Royal Naval College, National Maritime Museum, historic Portsmouth Harbour, the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, the Barbican village in Plymouth where the Pilgrim Fathers boarded the Mayflower, the Norfolk Nelson Museum, a tribute to Admiral Lord Nelson, the Maritime Heritage Centre and the Royal Navy Submarine Museum.



      Renee Zellweger, star of the original ‘Bridget Jones’ movie, is returning to Tower Bridge this year whilst filming the second Bridget Jones film – ‘Beyond the Edge of Reason’. Jonathan Cavendish, Producer, said: “Shooting again on Tower Bridge is a must. Known to us as Bridget’s Bridge, it provided a constant backdrop to Bridget’s ever-changing moods in ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’. We’re delighted to be back at one of London’s most recognisable and splendid landmarks.”

      A London icon, Tower Bridge has featured in many other successful films such as Johnny English, The Mummy Returns and the James Bond film – The World is Not Enough.

      Emma Williams, Business Manager at Tower Bridge Exhibition said: “ The original film’s inclusion of the Bridge confirmed its international significance as a premier London landmark. We look forward to increased visits to the Exhibition as Bridget fans come to experience the views for themselves.”

      On 21 November 2003, the latest British film sensation, Love Actually, hit UK screens with London playing a leading role. Visit London and Film London have joined forces to promote London as the location for the film, including the production of the Love Actually Movie Map. The map, the first of many based on films made in London, invites visitors to tour the unique locations used in Love Actually.

      From the makers of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’s Diary, Love Actually depicts a number of lives and love affairs that collide with hilarious and bittersweet consequences in the run-up to Christmas. The London locations that star in the film and are open to visitors include: Somerset House Ice Rink, Oxo Tower Wharf, the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s, Selfridge’s, Albert Bridge, City Hall, Tate Modern, Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.

      Adrian Wootton, CEO of Film London, said: “Film London exists to promote our city as an accessible, world recognised film capital, but cinema is also a powerful tool in promoting London to potential visitors, so movie maps provide a perfect synergy and are just the first of a host of planned film-tourism initiatives. Love Actually is the latest in a long line of films that have been shot in the capital and it will certainly help to ensure that London continues to attract filmmakers and visitors from all over the world.”

      The Love Actually Movie Map will be available through the Britain and London Visitor Centre on Lower Regent Street in London. For more information go to www.visitlondon.com.



        Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan is featured in the ‘Hong Kong – Live it, Love it!’ global advertising campaign, designed to rebuild visitors’ confidence and lure them back to the former British colony after the devastation of the SARS crisis.

        Jackie plays host in the television commercial and invites visitors worldwide to come to his home, Hong Kong, to enjoy the diverse experiences the city has to offer. The commercial opens with the sun rising over the Hong Kong skyline with local citizens preparing for a new day. As it progresses, these local characters are seen interacting with visitors at various Hong Kong attractions, and experiences of local life. The commercial ends with portraits of Hong Kong’s unique characters and landmarks bringing out the experience Hong Kong offers to visitors.

        The HKTB has launched the TV commercial in over 30 major cities in the world. Long-haul markets included the USA, UK, Australia and Canada; while short-haul markets included Mainland China, Taiwan, South & Southeast Asia, Japan and Korea.



        2003 has seen the Walt Disney Company begin construction of its new ‘Magic Kingdom’ on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island, with opening scheduled for 2005. A joint venture between the Hong Kong SAIR Government and The Walt Disney Company, the theme park will be located on a 126-hectare site at Penny’s Bay on Lantau Island.

        Hong Kong Disneyland will be only the third Disney theme park outside the US, following Paris and Tokyo, and is set to greatly expand Hong Kong’s appeal for families. It reinforce is expected to attract 5.2 – 5.6 million visitors in its first year of operation, growing to some 10 million a year by 2020.

        The theme park will have its own special railway link, providing visitors with easy access from the Airport, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. It is situated just 10 minutes from the airport and 30 minutes from downtown Hong Kong, making it a convenient attraction for short stopover visitors.

        Hong Kong Disneyland will be modelled on the original Disneyland in California, but will also feature some of the best design elements from other Disney parks around the world.

        Four separate experiences will be offered: Main Street USA, an animated neighbourhood showcasing Disney’s characters; The largest Adventureland of all Disney parks, where guests will experience the most exotic corners of the world; Fantasyland, a storybook kingdom reliving Disney stories with magical shows and therned rides; and Tomorrowland, an interactive, kinetic look into the future. A special Preview Centre is located in the Disney Store at Kowloon’s Ocean Terminal, providing up-to-date information on Hong Kong Disneyland’s progress.



          TOURISTS to Malta can follow in the footsteps of Russell Crowe and Brad Pitt under a new sales drive targeting film buffs. The Malta Tourist Authority is producing a ‘movie map’ detailing the favourite hangouts of stars who have visited the island. Gladiator, Byron and The Count of Monte Cristo have all been partially shot in Malta along with new Brad Pitt film Troy.

          Malta UK tourism director John Montaguc claimed Pitt was so taken with Malta he has even bought a property there. The map will feature on the Malta website and will direct visitors to the film locations and the restaurants, bars and hotels used by the stars. “We think this will generate a lot of interest,” said Montague.


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