10 Trending Destinations Inspired by TV Shows and Movies

More than ever, travelers are recreating the magic of film and television shows by visiting the places they see on screen. The trend, sometimes called set-jetting, has been around for a few years, but TV shows now influence where travelers go even more than social media sites like Instagram and TikTok, according to research conducted by OnePoll for Expedia Brands.

That same report says more than half of travelers who participated in the survey researched or booked a trip to a destination after seeing it on a TV show or in a movie. The film location-as-travel phenomenon is so prevalent now that one app, SetJetters, partnered with the film industry to help people document locations where directors filmed movie and TV scenes.

Visiting these locations “enables the world of the film to exist and flourish in people’s imaginations,” SetJetters CEO Erik Nachtrieb told Stacker in an email.

Some of the most popular real-life locations to visit, according to SetJetters data, are already popular tourist destinations. The Netflix series “Emily in Paris” brought a surge of new interest in France, already the world’s most-visited country as of 2019. The “Harry Potter” movies continue to bring tourists to London, and several blockbuster movies and TV shows, from “Ghostbusters” to “Gossip Girl,” drive interest in New York City.

At the same time, regions that haven’t historically had huge crowds are beginning to see more set-jetting tourists. Stacker combed through trending destination data from Expedia, the SetJetters app, and local tourism boards to find out which destinations saw more visitors due to TV- and film-loving tourists.

Bușteni, Romania: “Wednesday”

The comedy horror series “Wednesday,” starring Jenna Ortega as the popular “Addams Family” character, was a huge hit for Netflix, becoming the streaming platform’s third most-watched English-language series of all time. Some of that viewership turned into increased interest in travel to Romania by fans: Hotel searches for Bucharest increased by 55% after the series premiered in November 2022, according to OnePoll research conducted for Expedia Brands.

One destination featured on the show, the Cantacuzino Castle, located in Bușteni, has seen an influx of young and foreign tourists. Exterior shots of the castle were used for the show’s Nevermore Academy.

Scottish Highlands: “Outlander”

Thanks to the time-travel drama “Outlander,” tourism in the Scottish Highlands and other parts of Scotland has continued to increase over the years. Glasgow Caledonian University researchers estimate the “Outlander” effect has increased tourism by 45-200% at many Scottish locations. Tours promising the “Outlander” experience have popped up across Scotland to capitalize on interest in the book-turned-TV series.

“Outlander” fans may have a couple more years to add new areas of Scotland to their travel wishlist; the popular Starz show has announced Season 8 will be its last, but the final season will likely not be released until 2025.

Richmond, UK: “Ted Lasso”

Searches for London’s Richmond borough increased by 160% on Expedia’s website after Season 2 of the hit series “Ted Lasso” was released. By the time Season 3 came out, that interest reportedly doubled, according to OnePoll. The town of Richmond has leaned into its newfound popularity with its Ted Lasso Tours, which takes fans to Ted’s Local Pub, thinking bench, and front door. U.S. travelers are driving the heightened interest in Richmond; the show hasn’t found a large audience in the United Kingdom. Australian, Canadian, and Japanese travelers are also jumping in on the “Ted Lasso” tourism trend.

Bath, UK: “Bridgerton”

“Bridgerton” fans are using their vacations to venture away from London, dear reader, and instead heading to Bath, located in South West England. The popular Netflix series has given the city an economic boost of about $1.9 million. Since the most famous filming locations are spread out across the town, a Bath charity responded by adding a fleet of e-bikes for tourists to get around more easily. Hotels in Bath also offer special “Bridgerton” tours and afternoon teas to immerse fans in the Regency experience.

Pasadena, California: “Twilight”

The “Twilight” films may be over a decade old, but Twihards continue flocking to places that remind them of Bella and Edward’s love story. A certain “Twilight” prom scene continues to drive visitors to Pasadena, a city northeast of Los Angeles. The scene, in which Bella sits outside on a bench and talks to Jacob, was shot at a private house worth more than $12 million as of November 2023 and was one of the top film location stops in 2023 on the SetJetters app. “Twilight” also continues to drive many visitors to parts of Oregon and Washington, where other parts of the movie franchise were filmed.

Brisbane, Australia: “Thor: Ragnarok”

Who knew an alley could become a top tourist attraction? That’s the case for Esk Lane in Brisbane’s central business district, thanks to four days of filming that took place there in 2016. Many fans appeared during filming to wave at actors Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, and Cate Blanchett. The “Thor: Ragnarok” scene—a key confrontation between the characters Thor (Hemsworth), Loki (Hiddleston), and Hela (Blanchett) in the 2017 Marvel film—was teased in an early trailer for the movie before the setting was abruptly changed to a green plain in later trailers. Nonetheless, Esk Lane was one of the most popular locations on the SetJetters app for 2023. Even though the cameras are long gone, intrigue for the alley persists.

Budapest, Hungary: “The Witcher”

Seasons 1 and 2 of “The Witcher” were filmed in several locations across Europe, including Slovenia, the U.K., and Poland. Budapest saw a 170% tourism boost, largely due to early scenes in the series that use Vajdahunyad Castle as a backdrop. Coincidentally—or not—”The Witcher” is not the only popular story linked to Vajdahunyad Castle; the landmark also imprisoned Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia, or Vlad the Impaler, believed to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula character.

Taormina, Sicily: “The White Lotus”

The second season of the HBO series “The White Lotus” was filmed at the San Domenico Palace, located in the hilltop town of Taormina. Sicily was the 10th most popular location by combined visits, searches, and views on the SetJetters app and saw a 300% increase in bookings after its first two seasons, according to OnePoll data. Considering it satirizes the tourism and travel industries, it is ironic that both seasons of “The White Lotus” inspired travel to Hawaii, its Season 1 location, and Sicily.

Season 3 is anticipated to bring more interest in a new destination. “The White Lotus” won’t be back with new episodes until 2025, but HBO has confirmed it will occur at a luxurious hotel in Thailand. If the show continues working with Four Seasons hotels, there are four Thai locations to choose from: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and Chiang Rai.

Petra, Jordan: “Star Wars”

Ever wondered where they film many of the epic battle scenes in the rocky red desert? This is the place.

Love for the “Star Wars” franchise has endured since the 1970s, with more recent films drawing crowds to the stunning Martian-red desert of Petra and nearby Wadi Rum. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and “Rogue One” both include scenes filmed in the Jordanian desert.

Beyond the Force, many other films have used the dramatic sandstone and granite mountains as a backdrop. Over 100 feature films worldwide have been filmed in the area, and tourists are increasingly drawn to these sites. Some Hollywood examples include “Prometheus,” “Dune,” “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” and “The Martian.”

Astoria, Oregon: “The Goonies”

The cult classic film “The Goonies” may have been a phenomenon of the 1980s, but the thrill of a treasure hunt lives on among its fans today. It’s a good thing the movie characters didn’t tear down Mikey’s house in real life: Astoria remains the fourth most popular location by visits, views, and searches on the SetJetters app, with the “Goonies” houses being one of the most popular locations for 2023. The homes’ current owners have mixed feelings about the popularity of their properties. One house has been spotted with a “Goonies Not Welcome” sign, while the owner of Mikey’s fictional house—a “Goonies” superfan—bought it with the intention of preserving the cinematic landmark.

Photo Credit: [@oneinchpunch/DepositPhotos]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
10 Trending Destinations Inspired by TV Shows and Movies
Sheeka Sanahori

Sheeka Sanahori is a freelance travel journalist and video producer. She’s the founder of Inherited Travel, a newsletter for travelers who want to make more socially conscious choices.