Popular culture is a hugely influential distraction to the consumer psyche, bringing great influence to bear on how we focus our attention on a daily basis. We end up knowing things about  people and places, trends and events, without even meaning to. It saturates the mass media and headlines social media sites. It lingers in the back of our minds as we make choices about entertainment and ultimately travel too. And it turns fans into potential clients.

Pop culture by definition

There’s an emotional connection between movies, novels, music genre, or whatever art form happens to be popular (and let’s include gaming culture in this line-up of usual pop suspects), and the people who enjoy them. It’s a connection and interest that runs deeply enough to motivate travel to the destinations represented by pop culture phenomenon. By virtue of its definition, popular culture must include a vast cross-section of people – in fact, with the Internet bringing the world ever closer together, we’re talking about the global community, the size of a broadly connected audience.

Access and mobility make it possible for fans to visit the destinations depicted in social and entertainment media.

Add that to the now well-known desire for unique experiences in travel, and you’ve got some nice niche opportunities to exploit to expand your business prospects.

Location vacation goes pop!

A movie can depict a destination in a particular way, positive or negative with a bit of notoriety. A TV show can play out somewhere mythical but be filmed somewhere exotic and gorgeous. A novel can tell a compelling story depicting one or more specific aspects of a place. A destination can become wildly popular for exporting the best games, artwork or feature cool new movements as festivals. There could also be songs on the billboard charts reminiscent of a place and a feeling. Emotions evoked can vary but they’re always going to be strong, impactful and lasting.

Skopelos in Greece experienced a boom in tourism & wedding requests after Mama Mia!

Once it becomes trendy and everyone’s talking about it (directly or online), wants to experience it, and desires a deeper knowledge of it, it invites fandom.

This can become serious business – fans are keen to experience the phenomena at first hand, in the flesh, re-enact scenes from their favourite show, fantasise and re-live the magic on location. Location vacation affords fans the novelty of re-tracing the footsteps of their heroes, so to speak, with the added benefit of learning something new about the place along the way. If we can identify pop culture trends that are likely to bring travellers to our destinations, we can configure our tourism offerings as suppliers of travel products to provide opportunities for our travelling fans-cum-guests.

How pop culture dictates travel

With the huge box office success and popularity of the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy, came an equally huge surge of inbound tourism to New Zealand. From the die-hard fans to the marginally curious audiences fascinated by the natural beauty of the movies’ cinematography, people continue to flock to the filming locations and Hobbiton to this day.

Glenorchy Paradise, NZ, filming site of LOTR, X-men Origins & The Chronicles of Narnia

..on screen locations from television, film or music videos will influence 36% of travelers in the coming year

The Jakarta Post

There’s no other reason for this influx. In the same way, the English city of Liverpool continues to be a popular destination for Beatles lovers.

Considering the band broke up decades ago, yet still commands about 600,000 visits to the city each year, just goes to prove the power of popular culture. Although I enjoy some of their music, I’m not a huge fan – it’s a bit before my time.

Even so, friends and I roadtripping through Britain together chose to spend a night in Liverpool solely to experience the Magical Mystery Tour, due to its popularly established reputation.

Some cynics would call this sort of thing a tourist trap. But it was a fun, memorable experience, and participating in it made us feel like we were part of this bigger thing, something iconic of international and historical acclaim.

Chef Gordon Ramsay goes abroad

On television, the food channel is as popular as the travel channel – you don’t have to be a foodie in the cordon bleu connoisseur sense to enjoy watching good food being prepared.

When cooking programmes travel, it’s like a 2-for-1 bonus. Carnival Cruise Line‘s new Guy Fieri event should do well to attract lovers of his particular brand of food TV, when he takes Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse/Brewhouse to the seas.

If you can get a big name personality on board with your own brand, that’s awesome; but a bit of creative improvisation can be enough to satisfy the taste buds of your travelling fan.

As for the increasingly popularity of gaming culture, especially among the millennial crowd, the Far East, Japan in particular, is home to anime, manga and Taiga drama.

Dogo Onsen, location depicted in anime

Fans will attend events, do day tours and excursions to relevant locations that represent and celebrate their favourite pop culture phenomena. They want to go where they can purchase the memorabilia to take home. Provide that info and those opportunities of access for them.

Washinomiya

The more attractive and accessible we make it for our clients, the greater the return on investment for our destinations in terms of return visitors and referral business.

Consider the value of pop culture themed packages. Check out these Netflix themes and other TV trends that created quirky but lucrative opportunities for fans to extend their enjoyment of their favourite shows to their travels.

Entertainment media marketing

Some are hardcore fans, others are sufficiently curious to re-live an experience or explore further. And to ensure quality experiences, pop culture tourists want their information on good authority. The movie, book and art, of its own accord, will do an amazing job of promoting our destinations – you can safely ride those marketing coattails and supplement your own efforts so that your brand is quickly associated with pop culture brands.

You could be based in Latin America or the Caribbean, for example, and add a bit of salsa or reggaeton to your existing products. With the current trends of English-speaking global singing sensations, like Beyonce, collaborating on or producing Spanish-language songs or re-mixes, music lovers will be keen to learn how to do those pelvic thrusts they’ve seen countless times on MTV and YouTube.

Justin Bieber, Little Mix…& the X Factor’s Matt Terry all released chart-bothering, Latin-flavoured songs before Beyoncé‘s reworking of J. Balvin’s Mi Gente..

The Guardian

Wherever video can be hosted, fans can see trailers of their favourite songs or movies. Kids of all ages surf the Internet – when the little ones see the likes of Coco on their parents’ tablets or in the cinema, guess where they would love to go next vacation? Based on the festival around Dia de los Muertos, Mexico is showcased in a surprising but effective way as a travel destination. Surely you could conjure up something fun for kids to see and families to do around this if that’s where you’re based.

Fans want to make pilgrimages. And they want to boast about how lit their travel experiences were, with Instagram and YouTube being the most preferred and most influential social media platforms. It’s also the best way to share information with like-minded communities where to got to have those lit experiences they all aspire to having.

In 2018, television shows, films, sport and social media in particular look set to have an increasingly significant sway over booking decisions, as travelers turn to pop culture for their travel inspiration.

PR Newswire

There’s nothing new about the way pop culture dictates at times and generally affects travel decisions; the difference now is how content is shared and sought. A solid but simple virtual tour of your travel products featuring elements of a pop culture phenomenon, or video of an excursion to relevant locations near your premises, some appropriately displayed imagery on your web or social sharing sites in shareable format, and you’ve got a satisfied audience. Plenty of folks own VR headsets already – the future is officially here in 3D!

If you’re based in Morocco, you should know that TV series Game of Thrones was filmed in part in your destination to. So make a fuss of the stunning landscape where you’re based and hook your brand up with some sightseeing excursions or some other sort of regal experience to tantalise your travelling fan. Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar for The Revenant. A bit gruesome as movie plots go, but the Canadian landscape caught enough attention from nature lovers as keen on conservation and preservation as the actor is known to be himself.

Capitalise on the motif as well as the free destination marketing the television will do for you every single time the series is viewed. Set fire to your brand!🔥 Pop culture comes with its own language, but you only need to learn this much: Be visible and be lit.

Just because pop ranks at the low-to-mid culture levels, it doesn’t mean it needs to be tacky. You’d be showing your relevance to a broad spectrum of traveller types – millennials, solo travellers, seniors, families and couples will all have something they identify with. Popular culture tourism adds brand value to a destination. With so much happening all the time, it’s literally a matter of dipping into a lucky bag of sparkly Hollywood, Bollywood, Netflix, MTV, art and anime tricks, to find a motif that you’d be able to incorporate into your existing offerings, to align with and sell your brand.

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