The growth in overnight visitors – both domestic and international - to London slowed down during the latter half of 2007, and this year the overall growth in visitors to the capital is expected to be only a modest 1.2 per cent.
Spending is expected to be up by a mere two per cent, according to figures release by VisitLondon, which believes the US market is likely to continue to be subdued and arrivals from EU countries will slow down.
However, VisitBritain has a contingency plan which, along with the help of Harry Potter and many other celebrity characters, will lure more and more people to the country. A relatively new travel concept to rise phoenix like in the industry is movie tourism, the first tours of which started about 15 years ago.
One of the 100 companies around the world involved in movie tourism today is On Location Tours in New York City (which has fans flocking to its Sex in the City tours in particular). President and founder Georgette Blau is promoting the city in a big way.
In Britain, films bring the country to life, according to Seren Welch, head of sales and marketing for VisitBritain, speaking at a recent ITB conference in Berlin.
“Films like Elizabeth, Braveheart, Harry Potter, Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral are what Britain is all about. We as a tourist board almost become celebrity agents,” she said. “It is our responsibility to give Britain - which we think is the true star of these films - as much publicity as possible.”
“To do that we work very closely with the film studios themselves, with the process starting some 12 months before the films are released,” she said.
One of the most recent projects they worked on together with La Maison de France was the Da Vinci code. The English National Heritage charity has benefited too as its Burleigh House, used in this movie, has seen a recent rise in visitor numbers, and another property, the house used in Notting Hill, saw a 50 per cent increase in visitor numbers last year.
“Why travel to see a movie location? Anybody can go and see a castle, we have hundreds of them. But we also have the one castle where Harry Potter played Quidditch. Now only one country has that castle,” she said.
Starting off in London, Harry Potter enthusiasts can get down London's King's Cross station which was used to film the departure of the young first year wizards as they gather on the famous disappearing platform nine-and-three-quarters bound for their new school, Hogwarts. During the tour visitors find out that filming in fact took place on platform four.
Much of two Harry Potter movies - the Sorcerer's Stone and the Chamber of Secrets – were made in England’s north country. Alnwick Castle, the second largest inhabited castle in England (the first being Windsor Castle) has been home of the Percys, earls and dukes of Northumberland since 1309. The castle grounds are used as the location for many of the exterior shots of Hogwarts' School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as well as it is the location for the famous Quidditch match in the Sorcerer's Stone.
It also was used in Count Dracula, Disney's a Knight in Camelot and The Spaceman and King Arthur and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, plus the historic epics Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots and Becket. Alnwick Castle is open seasonally from April to October.
A two hour drive away is Durham Cathedral, its medieval cloisters being used on the Hogwarts set in the Philosopher's Stone. The cathedral is open for worship seven days a week and is open for general sight seeing until 5pm on Sunday, and until 6.15pm Monday to Saturday (and later in the summer).
On the North York Moors there is a steam railway, where Goathland station became Hogsmeade Station in the movies. The village station has barely changed since it opened on July 1, 1865, and makes an authentic setting for the wizardry students to arrive at via the Hogwarts Express. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is Britain's most popular heritage railway, and visitors can ride on a steam locomotive through 18 miles of countryside from Pickering to Grosmont near Whitby. The line is owned by North York Moors Railway Trust which has run it as a living museum since 1974.
Owls feature in the Harry Potter movies, and at the Muncaster Castle Gardens and Owl Centre in the Lake District fans will find the headquarters of the World Owl Trust where various talks, flying displays and photo opportunities are available.
Further to the south in Oxford, the Great Hall at Christ Church College, is the model for the Great Hall at Hogwarts, and has experienced a large increase in visitors since the first movie came out. For more information link http://www.enjoyenglandsnorthcountry.com/movies/default.asp
by Cheryl Mandy
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