Since the 1960s, several authors have talked about overtourism; in summary, this refers to a larger number of arrivals than a destination can accommodate, resulting in overcrowded destinations and in a negative perception of tourism by the tourists themselves and by the local population [1
]. It is a multidimensional and transversal phenomenon that is difficult to solve since it is related to social, economic and political issues, among others. Some of the main causes are the negative behaviour of tourists while at the destination, the overuse of public and private spaces (e.g., public transport, shopping centres or restaurants), the overuse of natural resources, and the irruption of low-cost tourism (e.g., transportation and sharing economy) [3
]. Venice represents the most paradigmatic example of an overcrowded city where the negative impact of tourism is more than evident [4
Thus, it is argued that certain types of cultural tourism, such as film-induced tourism, could contribute to the sustainable development of the destination and help alleviate overtourism [5
]. Some studies [6
] emphasize the positive role that film-induced tourism can have in diversifying tourist products and flows, as well as in representing and revitalizing unknown parts of a destination. With these and other positive impacts in mind, many cities have started to invest in attracting film shoots, which could later generate film-induced tourism. However, in [9
], the author questions the real viability of film tourism for sustainable tourist destination planning and development and its real contribution to alleviating overtourism, because sustainable tourism development should involve all stakeholders including the film industry, which is usually not overly concerned with the consequences the film may have on the destination.
Research on film-induced tourism faces several challenges, including shedding light on the agents, practices, destinations or attractions that films decide to portray and identifying recurring patterns and stereotypes in this respect [10
]. Besides this, research should analyse these patterns cinematographically and understand why certain tourist places or practices are portrayed in these films and how this affects tourist destinations.
With these challenges in mind, this study is set in Barcelona—a city that, in recent years, has experienced episodes of tourismphobia or anti-tourism, the “active behaviour of rejection of tourists” [11
] (p. 583), because of an excess of tourists in certain parts of the city, which has led to clashes with residents who suffer the adverse effects of this phenomenon.
Similarly to many other cities, Barcelona has started to portray itself through the cinema. The most important action in this line in terms of finance and promotional activities was the film Vicky Cristina Barcelona
, directed by Woody Allen [12
], with significant investment by Catalan public entities in the film who had a special interest in promoting the city of Barcelona internationally [13
]. Therefore, the aim of this study is to analyse the contribution of audio-visual fiction to tourism sustainability in Barcelona from the point of view of the offer—more specifically, whether the movie routes promoted by the Destination Management Organization (DMO) Turisme de Barcelona
has allowed the diversification of the places of interest for tourists in a city characterized by visitor saturation, by comparing the number of Online Travel Reviews (OTRs) of the same city attractions on the world’s largest online travel community platform, TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor allows users to get information about tourist attractions (also about accommodation establishments, restaurants, or airline companies) and, as well as providing textual and numerical information of the OTRs given by others, allows users to find out the total number of OTRs that provide information on their popularity [14
], as more reviews implies more visitors.
Thus, this study analyses “film-induced tourism on location—that is, at the places where particular scenes or elements of movies are filmed” [5
] (p. 43), specifically the locations of the six thematic routes belonging to the package named “Barcelona Movie Walks” offered by the Destination Management Organization (DMO) of Barcelona and promoted online on its website.
The movie routes are based on the following films: Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), Salvador (2006), Todo sobre mi madre (in English, All about my mother, 1999), Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), L’auberge espagnol (in English, Pot Luck, 2002), and Manuale d’amore (in English, Manual of Love, 2005) and their 65 locations of the film sets in Barcelona. All these locations are compared with the same ones displayed on TripAdvisor in order to determine the popularity of these sets according to the number of reviews.
Following this introduction, a literature review of film-induced tourism and its consequences for destinations is developed, and the methodology is presented together with the description of data collection from TripAdvisor. Later, the results of this research lead to the discussion and conclusions, with special emphasis on the theoretical contributions and practical implications for the destination.
Using the TripAdvisor tool to look for a specific text within the reviews of each attraction (see Figure 2
), a search in English for the titles of the six films analysed was carried out, and the results were that Vicky Cristina Barcelona
is mentioned in 14 reviews (six of them in attractions and eight in cafes or restaurants); Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
appears in two reviews, and there is an activity in “Things to Do” created about the film; two reviews were found in a restaurant about L’auberge espagnole
; and no mentions were found regarding Salvador
, Manuale d’amore
, or All about my mother
, although there were some about the director, Pedro Almodóvar.
The six routes analysed stop at a total of 65 locations, some of which, as can be seen in Map 1, are repeated; in particular, these include the most well-known hotspots of Barcelona such as the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell or the Gothic quarter.
TripAdvisor offers information on a total of 963 “Things to Do” in the city of Barcelona, and the Barcelona DMO shows 65 locations in its most promoted film walking routes, called Barcelona Movie Walks. However, when the locations are analysed in depth, it can be observed that the top 10 attractions with the most reviews on TripAdvisor are in 20 locations of the six films analysed, the top 20 attractions appear in 27 locations, the top 30 attractions appear in 33 locations, and the top 40 attractions appear in 36 locations (i.e., 55.4% of the locations of the routes based on the six films analysed are among the top 40 attractions reviewed on TripAdvisor).
The route based on the film Vicky Cristina Barcelona visits 16 locations of which 10 (62.5%) are among the top 40 attractions reviewed on TripAdvisor; the route of the film Salvador has nine locations and only two (22%) are in the top 40; All about my mother visits 12 locations, four of which (33%) are in the top 40; Perfume: The Story of a Murderer has 10 locations, four of which (40%) are in the top 40; L’auberge espagnole has 12 locations, and six (50%) of them are among the most reviewed attractions on TripAdvisor; and lastly, Manuale d’amore has nine locations along the route, of which six (67%) are among the top 40 on TripAdvisor.
The results show that, in general, the main points of interest along the six routes created by the Barcelona DMO based on the films analysed coincide with the main tourists attractions according to TripAdvisor, which are locations that also coincide with the top ten tourist attractions based on films, as suggested in [110
]. The only film that shows different tourist attractions is Salvador
, for which, apart from Plaça Reial and the Gothic quarter, the rest of the locations are not as famous as the others. This coincidence of the top tourist sites in Barcelona and the film locations on the routes seems to be opposite to the DMO’s intention to use film-induced tourism to decentralize tourism and promote other parts of the city [64
] and are in line with the findings of Rodríguez-Campo et al. [66
When performing an analysis of the textual description of the reviews of each attraction, as can be seen in Figure 1
, we observe that the films that have generated most reviews are Vicky Cristina Barcelona
, which is the second Woody Allen blockbuster, with sales of USD 96.4 million, followed by Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,
with box office sales of USD 135 million, and L’auberge espagnole,
with box office takings of USD 31 million.
According to the results, in few cases have the locations of the movies filmed in Barcelona contributed to spreading out tourists flows. In fact, with the blockbuster Vicky Cristina Barcelona
, the images of Barcelona transmitted when viewing the film are Parc Güell, the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi, and the Rambla [12
], which coincide with the top ten hotspots of Barcelona. Only films with lower audiences, such as Salvador,
contribute to spreading tourism flows throughout the city. Regarding limitations, there is a need to study other film-based routes in Barcelona and other saturated destinations to shed light on the differential contribution by blockbuster films versus lower-audience films to the sustainability of the destination and the alleviation of overtourism.
The threads regarding the films do not seem to have continuity on TripAdvisor, as not many reviews have been found talking about the films and only a few reviews of the attractions mention the blockbusters Vicky Cristina Barcelona
and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
. In any case, the movies analysed do not generate as many reviews on TripAdvisor as other much more famous films or series, such as Lord of the Rings
or Game of Thrones
. There are several studies which have analysed the impact of Lord of the Rings
in New Zealand [38
Therefore, concerning this study’s contribution to appraising the role that film tourism has towards sustainable tourism development and overtourism, in a city such as Barcelona, we can appreciate a gap between the DMO’s strategic view of film tourism [64
] and the reality, as film-based routes currently serve to bring more people to the top sites and do not generate much promotion through user-generated content. Thus, referring to management implications, this gap could be due to the lack of collaboration of the film industry [9
] with the DMO when designing Barcelona’s image to avoid certain top sites and stereotypes. Besides, this could be due to the lack of real policies or assessment of the film-based routes, as the main limitation of this study is that no statistical data are available in this respect.
Overtourism has become a problem for many destinations and is set to continue. The excess of visitors in places such as Barcelona needs to be managed to prevent an increase in anti-tourism movements, which could be done by means of culture and art-related tourism, as they are seen as more sustainable forms of tourism. In recent years, film tourism has become an opportunity to promote destinations, but only a few studies have questioned the sustainability of this type of tourism [9
With a case study about Barcelona, this research contributes to the existing literature about film-induced tourism and overtourism, showing that, far from contributing to distributing tourist flows throughout the city, film fiction actually concentrates these visitors at the main attractions of the city, thus increasing the presence of tourists in already crowded locations, which is particularly true for locations based on blockbuster films. Only some exceptions of films with “minor audiences” direct tourists off the beaten track.
The use of audio–visual fiction to diversify tourists at a destination poses a series of challenges for destination marketing organizations, film offices, and production companies, which requires them to coordinate their work [43
]; the academic world must undoubtedly participate in this collaboration with teams of cross-disciplinary researchers composed of experts in tourism, audio-visual communication and advertising.
Tourist destinations are places, and the place is one of the main themes in audio–visual narration. Hence, this is especially suitable for the location of destinations. Cinema occupies an important place among tourists’ motivations for visiting a destination and, apart from being a way of transmitting the image of a destination in the consumers’ minds, it can contribute to generating tourist flows, meaning that, in the case of overtourism destinations, care must be taken not to promote precisely the most saturated hotspots. Thus, designing careful destination image strategies that align the images portrayed in films with the image desired by the destinations is becoming very important [67
]. Well-aligned and planned strategies can help alleviate overtourism and contribute to destination sustainability and the diversification of tourism flows, but inappropriate strategies may aggravate the problem. Choosing an inappropriate movie to convey the image of a destination may damage its positioning [12
], while promoting sites visited en masse can also contribute to damaging the destination image. Exceeding the carrying capacity of the tourist resource entails problems in the management and conservation of the resource but also harms the visitor’s tourist experience and, therefore, the perceived image of the destination.
In-depth knowledge of the operation of audio-visual texts will allow their effective use for tourism promotion. However, audio–visual fiction does not act alone. It is important to enhance the impact that audio–visual fiction has on the image of a place, as well as the motivations and decisions to visit the places in which their stories are set. This is possible by resorting to prior communicative initiatives, parallel to the production of a film or series—disseminating information about the locations of the shooting, about the stars participating in it, and so on—or after the premiere in the different exhibition windows—the making of documentaries where film locations stand out—in order to broaden the results for the tourist space site.
With regard to destination managers, they are faced with the challenge of correctly choosing the tourist resources they wish to communicate through the cinema, finding a balance between the carrying capacity of the attractions of the destination to avoid overtourism in the main attractions of Barcelona, the interests of residents and tourists, and the image they seek to transmit from their destination. Undoubtedly, it is a challenge to reconcile this proposal with the interests of audio–visual producers, who display the iconic images of Barcelona—which is saturated with visitors—to try to increase the audience of their films. In this respect, the dilemma might be whether it is enough for the most recognizable sights of a city to appear in a film or in a series, which thus does not help to diversify tourism, or if it is possible to seek a balance between what is recognizable and what is not as recognizable with the aim of showcasing other places, and perhaps, by drawing from the audio-visual and many other stimuli (paratextual content, subsidies, among others), to redistribute visitors to these places. This may imply negotiating with film producers.
Regarding future research, the main limitation of this study is the lack of information about the number of tourists coming to Barcelona motivated by audio–visual fiction with the intention to visit certain places that appear in films and television series. The DMO, Turisme de Barcelona, does not have statistics of visitors disaggregated by audio–visual fiction in this city. Thus, from the point of view of the demand, is it not possible to confirm whether this type of tourism is contributing to overtourism in Barcelona, but it is possible to confirm that the points of interest offered by the movie routes are mostly the well-known places.
Likewise, to measure the popularity of tourist attractions in Barcelona, the TripAdvisor platform has been used. It is the world’s largest online travel review site and, therefore, the results are representative of its popularity. However, some visitors may not be willing to mention the film in their online reviews, and TripAdvisor is not the only platform that exists. For this reason, other online review sites such as Yelp or Google Reviews could be taken into account to empirically replicate this research, and surveys on visitors to the film-related places could be conducted.
Furthermore, since not all the movie routes of the city of Barcelona have been analysed (only the six most popular thematic ones promoted by the DMO, Turisme de Barcelona, through its website), further research could extend this study to other movie routes in Barcelona and even to other destinations that suffer from overtourism.