Fiction as tourist development


When we talk about communication and advertising, we immediately relate them to words like “creativity” and “ideas”. These words has been Italy’s trademark from the Roman age to the Renaissance and over, up to the seventies of last century. Then something has happened, flattening the ideas or maybe just missing the chances to make them real.

This can be said about many European areas, that have seen times of glory and rough downfalls, and where the economic crisis could now be an opportunity to see the birth of many new ideas.

Tourism is one of the business areas where scarcity of ideas leads to very poor results in terms of visitors. In most European countries there’re hidden treasures that only need visibility to generate income for local economies.

A recent research by Srm, center of studies of the Italian bank Intesa San Paolo, have summed up the added value of every single tourist coming to Italy: An average of about 103 euros. By splitting up the different types of tourism, the values change: Food & Wine tourism leads the ladder with nearly 120 euros, followed by cultural tourism with 105 euros and beach tourism with just 83 euros.

By working harder to build mixed packages, with a minimum effort it would be possible an increased income of about 4 billion euros in Italy only.

In this post we want to dig deeper into a new way to lead tourists to often unknown locations: Fiction (not just as tv series and movies but also as books, comics, videogames).

Videogames as a boost for tourism

The latest trend in videogaming, helped by more powerful gaming consoles and availability of 3D models, is to set virtual adventures in real world locations, although not necessarily at present times but often in the past. The most striking example is the Assassin’s Creed saga, a blockbuster with its 55 million of copies sold.

In this game the player embodies many heroes belonging to the “Sect of the Assassins”, in a century old fight against the “Templars” to get hold of mysteryius alien artifacts that would save the world from an upcoming destruction.
While the first episode was set in ancient Middle East, with accurate but not very rich reconstructions of Jerusalem, Damascus and Acres at Crusades time, the second episode takes place in Renaissance Italy.

assassinscreed-veneziaThe story unravels across faithful 3D reconstruction of Florence, Rome, Venice, Forlì, Monteriggioni, San Gimignano: Players can move around at will through the Strozzi palace, the Colosseum, St Mark’s tower and plenty of other monuments where the pleasure of playing is also a chance for virtual tourism. And a desire to visit the places for real.

Starting from this saga, many players have expressed the wish to come to Italy for a tour of the places where they’ve virtually been, flawlessy walking on the streets that they would know far better than tourist guides. Virtual tourism is a great chance to invite young generations in visiting not just mainstream tourism places but hidden gems too.

That’s the case of Monteriggioni, where from the issuing of the game in 2009, tourism presences have begun to rise. Two third of the tourist groups with teenagers said to have known about the town from the game.

Tourist assessor Rossana Giannettoni says: “(Assassin’s Creed) have given to the castle a great deal of visibility, reaching places that our tourist promotion would never have arrived by any mean. For instance the detached section of NY Giggenheim Museum at the Cloisters, dedicated to middle ages, have requested a scale model of our castle, known thanks to the game.”

The potential to make visitors know about magical little locations through fiction is huge. Let’s take a look to another great example: Inspector Montalbano. Coming from a successful book series, the tv adaptation came out in 1998. From then, tourism in South-East Sicily has seen a yearly growth rate of 12-14% and bed & breakfast accomodation have risen from 65 in 2001 to 2900 in 2011!

Another more recent case is that of Volterra, where the have been set the worldwide blockbuster “New Moon: Twilight”. Local agencies offer tours around town in the footsteps of the movie.


Tourism Fiction

Tourism Fiction is the name used to describe those production written with the aim of bringing tourist to a specific location.

In the development of an usual adventurous story, they include many references to the history and culture of the places where they’ve been set.

bresseAbout comics, there’s an interesting project from the french province of Bresse that has partnered with private businesses to produce a graphic novel where the main character, a nice girl, wanders across the touristic attractions of the area.

This comic has been used as a replacement for traditional tourist leaflets, resulting in a great appreciation from visitors and in sales of a paperback edition of the book too.

Véronique Guillot, one of the project managers, does not consider it a sheer promotional mean: “The main value of this project is the book itself, that allows us to enter in a real illustrated  world”.

It has to be pointed out that the sales of the graphic novel, priced 12,5 euros, amounted to 8.000 copies for a quick return of investments (85.000 euros) for all subjects involved.

In Italy too there is a recent case: The Rural Emotions contest launched for the creation of a comic character that will have to promote the culture and traditions of some rural areas of the North East Italian region of veneto (plus a Finnish partner).

The managers of the project said:

“The idea to propose a comic was born from the will to promote in a new way the integrated system of cultural trails that will be planned by the 7 partners involved. This project goals are about getting tourist know about the cultural treasures of lesser cities that have often given great inspiration to writers and artists, born there or just visiting as travellers.
The main character, selected through the Rural Emotion Comics contest, will be a guide who will help the tourist in living a fictional adventure across the territory and meeting the most notable people who have lived there. Every story will end with a mistery that could be unravelled only by visiting the real places.”

The little towns and regions are the one that cuold probably gain more benefits from a non-conventional marketing strategy.

Tourism Fiction is the Eden Exit division that develops tourism promotion projects in unconventional ways through entertainment productions, to give a boost to lesser known regions and their economies.