Tourism and Leisure Studies Emerging Scholars Award

In early 2018, scrolling through an international tourism research and education network, I stumbled upon the final call for applications for an Emerging Scholar Award to attend the Third International Conference on Tourism & Leisure Studies. The awards are given to outstanding graduate students and emerging scholars who have a research interest in the conference themes.

The application process required me to concisely establish how my research linked to the key themes of the conference. The special focus for the 2018 conference is “building bridges to sustainability: tourism, culture, gastronomy and sport”, which fits and compliments the areas which I’m actively researching. Moreover, I was expected to demonstrate how I may contribute to the scope of the conference, and how I could effectively engage with emerging and established academics to develop interdisciplinary theory, practice and learning.

My background and experience in coordinating various events, presenting at recent conferences and symposium, and other professional work (e.g. teaching) suitably indicated the breadth of my key generic and technical skills. The closing date was looming so I tentatively submitted an awards application – not expecting to get a look in if I’m perfectly honest! I ruled myself out of the running and moved forward with my studies. Lo and behold a month or so later I was delighted to be notified by the organisers that I was going to be a recipient of one of the Emerging Scholar Awards.
Seeking out this route for attending international events is certainly not only beneficial for subsidising conference fees (I received a fee waiver!), coupled with enabling access to hard-to-reach locations, and enhancing wider engagement with the major players in your field or industry. Increasingly opportunities to attend through these means are scarce. As part of the programme, I will be chairing a number of themed panel sessions and presenting during the course of the conference.

This highly supportive environment is useful for professional and career development, building collaborations, and at the very least exploring a new place alongside interesting folk! In light of this award recognition, I envisage the platform as being instrumental in raising my profile and offering welcomed exposure to many of the leading lights and associated parties in the fields of tourism, events and leisure studies. So, next time you spot a similar opportunity, why not have a go and see where it takes you. What’s the worst that can happen?

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Film Induced Tourism – Matter of Simulation or Viable Tourism Development Option?

Film tourism may be defined as tourist activity induced by the viewing of moving images used in both film and television. Previously I made reference to the concept of hyperreality which was first developed by Jean Baudrillard (see Social Media and the Attainment of Fantasy for a full definition). Baudrillard conceived the advent of film as marking the emergence of a technological form of simulation in which the sign is the metaphorical figure of a transcendent reality. Tourists are now searching for new experiences in places which were not considered to be traditional places to visit like film locations. Characteristics of the real are being reconfigured for these tourists as reality is extensively fusing with hyperreality. Film tourism destinations may be deemed elaborate re-creations and representations of reality. The majority of recent simulation examples relating to the hyperreal experience comprise of environments like theme parks, wax museums and film locations.

Film tourism can be an attractive vehicle for enhancing destination image. Research indicates that authorities like the New Zealand Tourism Ministry have harnessed positive images created by films such as The Lord Of The Rings to stimulate future tourism visits. The setting for the Lords of the Rings films in New Zealand is a particular representation of a fictional story. This representation is a product of an advanced graphical simulation. The location for the film is certainly a real place, however the way that the film is configured and manufactured using graphical software alters the viewer’s realistic interpretation of the film. In the case of the Lords of the Rings films the tourist experience involves the place in its real form which is New Zealand and its hyperreal form which is Middle Earth. Film tourists are consumed with the hyperreal setting of the film, and imagine this replication to be the fundamental image of the location, which of course is a fake representation.

In studies completed by the UK Film Council it is estimated the impact of UK film on tourism could amount to as much as 1.9 billion worth of visitor expenditure in 2009. The 3D animation film Brave has been identified as a film that could boost Scotland’s worldwide tourism profile. Visit Scotland has set aside £7m for global advertising to launch Brave in 72 countries. This Brave-themed Discover Scotland campaign which is supported by Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond could increase tourism in Scotland by £140m a year. BBC Fast Track have also produced a summary of how Scotland intends to boost tourism. For this to happen a number of key characteristics need to be present in order to encourage future visits to film sites, and therefore have the potential to create significant levels of tourism in the region. These characteristics include films that contain strong narratives, films that are high visibility screen products, films with a positive, uplifting tone, and films which link to an established brand. On a similar note the Harry Potter films led to a 120% rise in visitors to Northumberland’s Alnwick Castle, and injected £9m worth of tourism to the region. Increasingly British film locations are starting to benefit from this so called “movie effect“. Conversely there have been alternative forms of film induced tourism suggested. For example in Cornwall gastronomy (visiting to experience the cooking of a particular region) might occur as an alternative type of film induced tourism.

The concept of hyperreality is highly complex and crucially it seems to be overlapping into many different environments. This can be shown in the case of film tourism as many tourists search for authentic film locations in this widely simulated world. But in fact they are subjected to fantasies rather than reality. Particular studies have found that the merging of both reality and myths for film tourists made the experience more exciting and fulfilling. Generally speaking tourists that visit these locations are initially seeking out authenticity, so wouldn’t they prefer to experience something in a more realistic form? The notion of hyperreality is seen to be of great importance to tourism industry development. As a result the ability for tourists to be able to distinguish real experiences has slowly disappeared and has led to even more fictional encounters.

Academics have recognised methods for growing and sustaining the film tourism industry. Industry integration and collaboration between stakeholders has been cited as a key component, and therefore could be crucial in establishing a sustainable film tourism industry. One of the many assets of the tourism industry is the ability to be able to construct images and to promote authenticity. Therefore if tourists start to become aware and in turn realise that these experiences are artificial it could lead to tourists selecting other activities to participate in that are not tourism related. Destination marketers and tour operators should strive to understand how film tourists experience these shared cultural landscapes in order to meet and fulfil these tourists expectations. In the long term film induced tourism could well influence and significantly impact upon future post-modern tourist trends.