British TV Tourism Remains an Underexploited Economic Resource (Study)

Christmas specials of "Sherlock" and "Downton Abbey" are set to showcase the British capital as government-backed agency Film London seeks to trumpet the positive economic impact from visitors oggling locations.

LONDON – Government agency Film London has suggested that TV shows airing during the holiday season, including Sherlock and Downton Abbey, could bolster so-called film tourism to the British capital and its economy.

The agency, wearing its hat as a partner in EuroScreen, a European-wide project to exploit movie and TV tourism, came up with the shows as a report, published on Dec. 23.

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Publishing the report and case study, "The Attraction of Screen Destinations," EuroScreen claims there is "huge potential which is not being fully exploited," from such tourism, regarding major economic and cultural opportunities.

Made up of nine partners from eight European regions and co-funded by INTERREG IVC, EuroScreen works to align policies between the screen and tourism industries.

The report and newly published case studies highlight the benefits of screen tourism, including examples such as Ystad in Sweden, which has seen a dramatic increase in non-Scandinavian tourists since the broadcast of Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh. The British adaptation, which first aired on BBC One in 2008, is credited with directly contributing to an 18 percent rise in British tourists in 2009.

The overall international success of the U.K. and Swedish screen adaptations saw the turnover in the region’s tourism sector rise from $76 million (490 million SEK) in 2002 to $113 million (720 million SEK) in 2011.

"With our European partners, Film London is keen to ensure EuroScreen enables us to take better advantage of this very lucrative market," said Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission. "Building data, highlighting success stories and sharing best practices will help us build a coherent screen tourism strategy and align policies between the screen and tourism industries for mutual benefit. For London in particular, which is a hugely popular filming destination, there is potential to attract more tourists by capitalizing on the ready-made promotion provided by the city appearing onscreen, delivering significant economic dividends for the capital."

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As the Christmas season begins with its Christmas television schedule here, the capital is showcased in a number of upcoming programs, including the Christmas specials of Downton Abbey and Sherlock.

Highclere Castle, the grand estate in which Downton Abbey is set, has become one of the top 10 tourist sites in Manchester since the show first aired.

Its success in the U.S. is driving American tourists to the U.K., many of whom visit the National Trust property, which is enjoying a surge in visitors, the report also notes.

The third season of Sherlock returns on Jan. 1, 2014.