Palau Has Great Potential For Film Tourism

By Jackson M. Henry —-

Palauans have heard of sport tourism, medical tourism and cultural tourism. But how many have heard of film tourism. I do not suppose many Palauans even know exactly what it is and what financial bonanza it has potentially in store for Palau.

Film tourism is simply destination promotions of locations where movies or TV shows were filmed. One of the finest examples of film tourism is Tahiti where tour operators promote it as the site where Hollywood star Marlon Brando filmed his epic movie, “Mutiny on the Bounty”.

The thrust of film tourism is boosting travelers to a particular destination that was nicely depicted in a movie or a TV show. Visitors to a film destination want to feel that special on-site experience which elevates their emotions as if they were in the movie themselves.

Statistics show that every time an epic movie becomes a block buster at the cinemas, it also increases travelers to the film site. For instance, the movie “The Beach” which was filmed on location on Ko Phi Phi islands in Thailand created a massive tourism boom that even the Thai officials feared the island could virtually “sink”.

The movie, “Steel Magnolia”, filmed in the state of Louisiana, had the effect of increasing visitor arrivals in the state by a whopping 48% one year after release. Tom Cruise’s film, “Mission Impossible 2” increased tourism to Sydney, Australia by 200% in the year 2000. And “The Last of the Mohicans”, filmed in North Carolina, caused tourism in the state to surge by an unprecedented 25%. There is no question that movies sites are powerful promotional aids that appeals to the masses like not other medium offers.

Although statistics may be sketchy, I believe “Survivor Palau” reality TV series had the effect of promoting Palau as a destination and improved arrival rates for years that followed the show. One thing for sure was that it lured TV producers from Philippines and France to film their versions of “Survivor” in Palau.

Because film productions do have strong bearings on travel decisions and can inspire people to experience the filmed site first hand, it makes sense for Palau to jump in the fray and promote film tourism to boost high end visitors to our shores.

One of the keys to promoting film productions in Palau is to remove all the unfriendly bureaucracies and red tapes that hinder movie producers from picking Palau as the setting for their movies. Hence, OEK need to enact a law that exempts movies or TV productions from FIB regulations and their crews exempt from Palau Labor Laws. Tax incentive would provide Palau that competitive edge needed to penetrate this market.

Secondly, with the Rock Islands’ beauty and stunning marine environment, additional promotions funds must be made available for PVA to showcase these assets to Hollywood and TV producers to use as film sites. A catalogue of Palau’s prime movie sites should also be published and mass mailed out to various movie makers in the US, Europe and Asia. Once these sites make it to the Cinemas, then naturally, Palau will see a boost of arrival rates.

Palau can learn a lot from Tahiti. Just that one movie “Mutiny on the Bounty” has created such a large demand for travelers to Bora Bora that the island has limited its tourism arrivals only to the very high end. I believe Palau can do better than Tahiti. What is needed is strong government support to make film tourism a reality.

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