From the post-apocalyptic gloom of the TV show The Last of Us to the glamorous European destinations of the sprawling James Bond film franchise, one source of travel inspiration is gaining new appeal as pandemic restrictions ease: the fictional worlds of film and television.
“Set-jetting” – a game of “jet-setting” – will strongly influence the choice of destinations this year, according to travel analysts. As search traffic to the filming locations of the most popular streaming movies and TV shows increases, this pastime is expected to supplant social media as the primary source of inspiration for travelers, according to a study by online travel companies such as Expedia.
In response, destinations, tour operators and even film and television production companies are looking to offer ever more experiential ways for people to engage with their favorite fictional worlds. The government of Alberta, Canada even put together a map of the film’s filming locations for fans of The Last of Us to follow on a road trip. (The series was filmed in the countryside.)
But perhaps none are as captivating — and extravagant — as the new series of James Bond-themed private tours. These include a high-speed race on the River Thames in the same Sunseeker Superhawk 34 speedboat used in The World Is Not Enough; a vintage yacht cruise on the Côte d’Azur to the Monte Carlo Casino featured in “GoldenEye”; and a helicopter ride over the snowy Ötztal Alps in Austria, where Specter was filmed, accompanied by special effects veteran Chris Corbold.
People are as drawn to movie locations as they are to stories, said Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato, a travel company based in New York and London that has been brought in by Bond film producer EON Productions to celebrate 60 th anniversary of the first Bond film, “Dr. No.”
The purpose of the tours, Mr. Marchant said, is an “unparalleled” immersion in the world of 007. The cost? From $18,500 per person for five nights and from $73,500 per person for the full 12-day experience.
“Transported to the Film Set”
For many travelers, the high price of diving is worth it. Inspired by the bucolic hills and lofty Alps in The Sound of Music, the 1965 musical starring Julie Andrews, Natalie MacDonald, a New York entrepreneur, is willing to pay about 10,500 pounds, or about $12,900, for Black Tomato to plan a train trip in Switzerland in 2019 with her daughter, then 12 years old.
“It literally felt like we were transported to the set,” she said, adding that memories of the trip lingered long after they returned home. “In so many ways, it extends the journey into our subconscious.”
This desire to immerse yourself in fictional worlds has also been noted by streaming companies like Netflix, which is expanding its range of interactive (and much more accessible) events. From Regency-era balls in cities like New York to the unveiling of a secret government lab at an event in Los Angeles, attendees are given the chance to dress up and step into storylines from shows like Bridgerton (from $59 per person) and “Stranger Things” (from $39 per adult).
“We want people to walk away feeling like they really got to experience that ‘hero’ moment in a world or story they’ve loved,” said Josh Simon, vice president of consumer products at Netflix. About three million people have attended such immersive events in 17 cities, and the company is planning more experiences related to series like “Squid Game.”
Other operators are paying attention. The Four Seasons at Cap-Ferrat, the location of a scene from the Netflix series “Emily in Paris,” offers a girls’ trip to the French Riviera (prices vary, but can reach at least $2,000 for a room for two). Fans of “The Last of Us” are flocking to the show’s Alberta locations, despite the show’s pessimistic premise of a world inhabited by survivors after a global pandemic.
Among the clearest winners in screen tourism this year, according to travel consultants, is the cliff-side town of Taormina, Sicily, home to the second season of HBO’s The White Lotus. A one-week $7,500 White Lotus tour was in such demand that it sold out months in advance, according to Quiiky Travel, a tour operator serving LGBTQ clients.
Web traffic to the Four Seasons San Domenico Palace, the show’s venue, has increased more than 60 percent since the first episodes aired, and bookings are expected to be higher this year than last year, the hotel said.
“The White Lotus works as a business accelerator for us,” said Lorenzo Maravilla, the hotel’s general manager, adding that the sudden interest after the show was something he had never witnessed. Like their fictional counterparts, hotel guests can visit local wineries, ride a Vespa through Sicilian streets, and sip an aperitif in the restaurant (though major thrills aren’t guaranteed).
Bow ties and bubbles
While they wait to find out who will replace actor Daniel Craig, whose last appearance as James Bond was in 2021’s No Time to Die, Bond superfans willing to pay for one of Black Tomato’s 60 personalized tours will have the opportunity to view Bond costumes and props, with stories from the Director of the Bond Archive, Meg Simmonds, in London. If they’re looking for an adrenaline rush, they can learn fight scenes with Lee Morrison, stunt coordinator and former understudy for Daniel Craig, also in London. Or they can listen to inside stories over a Paris dinner with Carol Ashby, the British actress who appeared in “Octopussy” and “A View to Kill.”
They will also be able to enjoy the brands featured in the world of Bond, including an Aston Martin workshop (the spy’s car of choice) in Millbrook, England, and a private tour of the Bollinger vineyards (the spy’s choice of champagne) in the village of Ai , France.
And then there’s the tour’s most lavish offering: the $73,500-per-person, 12-night trip called “The Assignment,” which starts in London and takes passengers on a five-stop European tour, ending in Venice. A narrative component is potentially in development, Mr. Marchant said, so attendees can experience their own Bond storyline.
For Bond fans on a budget, there are other options. Rob Woodford, a former UK taxi driver who organizes tours based on popular films and TV series, is looking forward to a busy year. His James Bond themed tours try to incorporate an element from most of the 25 films in the series. This year, he’s considering teaming up with a motorboat company to recreate the breathless scene from The World Is Not Enough.
“Wouldn’t it be a good idea to recreate Pierce Brosnan shooting the River Thames?” he said, adding: “You have to reinvent yourself a bit.”