The Branding of Northern Ireland as a Tourist Destination Using C.S. Lewis’s the Chronicles of
Narnia - the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Mr. Peter Bolan and Ms. Noëlle O’Connor
This paper identifies the importance of destination branding in tourism locations that have become popular
due to their featuring in or association with a movie. This research maintains that the benefits of movie-
induced tourism can be strengthened through destination branding, hence the overall aim of this research is to identify the associated benefits of movie induced tourism as applied to destination branding.
Therefore this paper will investigate the impact of movie branding on destinations by reviewing the current
destination branding and movie induced literature and applying this various case studies including Ireland.
In marketing terms, a brand represents a unique combination of product characteristics. It is a superficially attractive idea with its distinct image and perceived competitive advantage through a product, which offers
added values over and above its physical features. Global mega products like McDonalds, Nike and Coca-
Cola have brands, which are recognisable in any language or culture. The Shell and McDonalds brands
are two of the world‟s most famous brands recognised by almost 90% of the global population. These are
exceeded only by the rings symbol of the Olympic association (Morgan and Pritchard, 1999). Sony
probably spends more on its annual advertising budget (?230) than the combined totals of most of the
world‟s national destination organisations. Countries such as Croatia, Vietnam and Egypt compete with
these companies for consumer mind share in a crowded environment influenced by spiraling media costs.
Tourism and Branding
The marketing of places has become increasingly competitive in recent decades and public sector
marketing strategies are becoming ever more sophisticated as the stakes are raised. With the
development of new destinations, branding strategies need to highlight product differentiation. In particular,
newer emerging destinations are attempting to carve out a niche and to create images emphasising the
uniqueness of their product. In order to rise above the media clutter of the tourism marketing world, more
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and more destinations are pursuing a highly focused and choreographed communications strategy in which
branding plays a critical role (Seaton and Bennett, 1996)
The tourism industry is now using branding as a means of emphasising the feel of the place and developing
a personality of the location as this differentiates the destination from the typical travelogue attraction
because the branded destination is an experience not just a place to go (Anon, 1996b). This branding
mentality has been observed in recent campaigns for Australia „Come and say G‟Day‟, New Zealand‟s
„100% Pure New Zealand‟, Montana‟s „Big sky country‟ campaign and „It‟s a whole other country‟ for Texas.
In fact it is estimated that state government in the USA spent US$554.2 million in 2002-2003 to promote in
the fifty states (Travel Industry Association of America, 2003). This emphasises that the marketing of a
destination has a significant impact on its development which can in turn be strengthened through efficient
Internationally there is huge potential in destination branding. In the 1980‟s there were several highly
successful marketing campaigns, which centered on a consistent communications proposition. In New
York a campaign was developed (I*NY) to counteract the image of the city as a crime ridden tourist
unfriendly city. Indeed the campaign‟s simple message led to the slogan being adopted in copycat fashion
for a host of other products and destinations (Gibson and Nielson, 2002). In Glasgow, the city‟s campaign
(Glasgow’s Miles better) was tied into a wider regeneration and city marketing strategy. In these and in
many other instances the campaigns focused on logos and slogans (Kotler and Gertner, 2002). This
emphasises that the marketing of a destination has a significant impact on its development which can in
turn be strengthened with an efficient branding model.
Best Practice and Destination Branding
Tourism destinations are probably one of the most difficult products to market involving large numbers of
stakeholders and a brand image over which a destination marketing manager typically has very little control.
The diversity and complexity of tourism destinations is well documented (Leiper, 1996) and this makes
brand development very difficult for national regional and local tourism organisations. Destination branding
necessarily involves the focused attention of all tourism relayed organisations in a destination and this can
create a major challenge in getting all stakeholders to develop a coherent theme for the destination brand.
Spain is among one of the best examples of modern successful national branding because it keeps on
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building on what truly exists. Its branding efforts incorporate a wide variety of activities under one identity to project a multi-faceted yet and mutually supportive whole (Gilmore, 2002). I love New York, Canada‟s
The World Next Door and VisitBritain‟s Heritage themes all serve to brand and identify their destinations
with unique labels.
Beeton (2005) stated that those destination brands which have seemingly emerged from obscurity to achieve instant stardom are not surprisingly, the worlds top ten place brands; America, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, Japan, Switzerland, Germany and South Korea. America is undoubtedly the worlds leading place brand partly because it has been so thoroughly and expensively marketed to the rest of the world over the past century (Anholt 2005). Such rapid elevation to celebrity status however often owes much to culmination of long-term economic, political, social and cultural factors. There have been many notable successes in developing strong tourist destination such as the brand development programmes for New York and Spain but equally many efforts at co-operative marketing have failed to gained momentum. The apparently effortless appearance of Ireland as a cool fashionable destination for instance is the result of over twenty years of economic turnarounds coupled with the breakthrough of Irish culture onto the world stage (Beeton, 2005).
Recognising that movies can enhance awareness of places and affect decision-making processes, marketers are increasingly working with film producers to promote their destinations as possible film locations (The Economist 1998; Rosen 1997; Seaton and Hay 1998). However, despite recognition that place images can be developed through depiction in movies, the process by which movies influence destinations has not been widely examined.
Movie Induced Tourism
The Emergence of the Movie Induced Tourism Discipline
A new phenomenon in movie induced destination branding is the growth of tourism in destinations where movie or television programmes have been filmed. Some attention has been paid to how regions and countries capitalise in film images in destination marketing campaigns by researchers such as Riley, Baker and Van Doren, 1998; Riley and Van Doren, 1992; Riley, 1994; Stewart, 1997; Tooke and Baker, 1996, O‟Connor, 2000 and Beeton, 2005. Evidence from around the world confirms the power of film and
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television in stimulating tourism demand in showcase destinations. Many destinations are forced to cope
with a dramatic influx of visitors as a result of film and television induced tourism (Connell, 2004).
VisitBritain defines movie induced tourism as tourist visits to destinations as a result of the destination
being featured in a movie (Mintel, 2003). High profile examples of films that have created demand for
specific destinations include Rob Roy (Scotland), Crocodile Dundee (Australia) and Gorillas in the Mist (Rwanda) (Mintel 2003). Locations filmed as part of film are likely to see increases in the awareness and
appeal of destinations and profitability of tourism operations, as effects similar to those created by hallmark
events unfold (Tooke & Baker, 1996). Certain destinations can become intrinsically linked with a particular
film such as Thailand and The Beach, Ireland and The Quiet Man, however the potential influence of movies on the tourist can be linked to a more specific level such as actual cities …Vienna and The Third Man, Florence and A Room with a View, Salzburg and The Sound of Music (Bolan and Davidson, 2005).
Displacement in the movie induced tourism context refers to the aspect of a movie being shot in one place
but in reality representing somewhere else entirely. For example the Philippines was used to depict
Vietnam in Platoon and Canada is often used for the United States as in the case of the sequel to the Blues Brothers (“Lures and Enticements”, 1998). The Hollywood movie The Last Samurai to many people showcases the landscape and culture of Japan but in actuality it was filmed in New Zealand. Another
recent film, which showcases some great landscape cinematography, was the Oscar winning film Cold Mountain. The movie is set in South Carolina (USA), it was however filmed in the Carpathian Mountains
(Romania) (Bolan and Davidson, 2005). Saving Private Ryan (1998) similarly was filmed largely in Ireland
but gave a boost to tourism in the Normandy region of France (Busby and Klug, 2001).As demonstrated by
research associated with the movie Braveheart (Seaton and Hay, 1998), it is not the objective reality of the
place, but instead the meaning it represents that transforms places depicted in motion pictures to
symbolically meaningful tourist attractions (Morgan and Pritchard, 1998). The bars based on the television
series Cheers also play the cult of celebrity by providing an environment similar to the set as well as special
menus and memorabilia (Frost, 2001).
The Impact of Movie Induced Tourism on a Destination
With the renewed interest in the UK movie industry the recent successes of many British movies, it appears
the film industry is embarking upon a period of growth and as more locations are being used in the UK and
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regions are becoming more aware of the tremendous opportunities that filming can impart we are likely to
see a rapid growth in movie induced tourism as a consequence. Given that movie induced tourism is still in
its infancy it remains to be seen whether the novelty of visiting locations will lose their attraction or whether
it will increase in popularity as a successful form of tourism in its own right (Corlett, 1998). Movies can also
be used to focus and drive attention towards geographical areas or highlight lesser known regions. France
for instance used the film Chocolat to draw attention to Burgundy and Charlotte Gray the Aveyron and Lot
Valley – and it can make places popular, which may struggle to find any reason to develop a tourist industry.
Once the movie has been chosen the marketing campaign needs to be centred on the movie cycle (Mintel
Bolan and Davidson (2005) maintain that media does have a strong influence on people‟s choice of tourist
destination and further that film in particular can be a strong motivating factor to visit destinations. Older
and what might be termed „classic‟ movies tend to feature more strongly in this regard for Ireland than
anything produced in more recent years. The literature suggests that movies that reflect the essence or
authentic aspects of a destination, be it the scenery, the culture or key landmarks, are inducing tourists to
visit the scenes they‟ve experienced on screen‟ (Grihault, 2003). In support of Bolan and Davidson‟s (2005)
research Kennedy (1998) also claimed that castles, abbeys and stately homes are enjoying a tourist boom
due to the revival of the British movie industry following films such as Robin Hood, Hamlet, Sense and
Sensibility, 101 Dalmatians and Mrs Brown (Corlett, 1998).
Deliverance, an early 1970‟s action movie set in Raeburn County Georgia (USA) was the catalyst for the
establishment of its raft and adventure tourism industry. Historic Fort Hayes features in Dances with
Wolves saw an increase of 25% in 1990-91 compared with an average increase of 6.6% for the previous
four years. Since the release of the film there has been an increase in British lead package tours of 341%.
Devils Tower, Wyoming thanks to the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind became a household
name in US in the 1970‟s. The Tower plays a key role in the film and during its cinema run and television
reruns the area enjoyed a tremendous increase in visitors. The year after its release visitor numbers
increased by 74% (See Table 1) and over a decade later 20% of visitors credited viewing the film as their
prime source of destination knowledge (Kotler et al, 1993).
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Table 1: Television and Movie Induced Increases in Tourism at Selected Destinations Braveheart Stirling Castle, Scotland 25%: 1995 Scottish Enterprise Forth
Valley (2000) Close Encounters of the Devil's Tower National 74%: 1977-78 (film Riley & Van Doren Third Kind Monument, Wyoming, release) (1992)
USA 39%: 1980 (TV release)
Crocodile Dundee Kakadu National Park Exact % not available: Riley et al (1998)
1986 Tooke & Baker (1996) Dances With Wolves Fort Hays, Kansas, USA 25%: 1990-91 Riley & Van Doren
(1992) Dances with Wolves Badlands National Park 14.5%: 1990 Riley et al (1998)
Tooke & Baker (1996) Deliverance Georgia Rivers Exact % not available: Riley et al (1998)
1972 Tooke & Baker (1996) Harry Potter Alnwick Castle, 100%: 2001 Mintel (2003)
JFK Book Depository Dallas 45%: 1992 Riley et al (1998)
Tooke & Baker (1996) Steel Magnolias Natchitoches Louisiana 48.1%: 1989 Riley et al (1998)
Tooke & Baker (1996) The Fugitive Great Smoky Mountain 11%: 1993 Riley et al (1998)
Railroad North Carolina Tooke & Baker (1996) The Last of the Mohicans Chimney Rock Park, 25%1992 Riley et al (1998)
North Carolina Tooke & Baker (1996) Thelma and Louise Arches National 19.1%: 1991 Riley & Van Doren
Monument, Utah, USA (1992)
(Adapted from Connell, 2005)
JFK the movie about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was released in 1992 and shortly
after visitors to the sixth floor Book Depository / Museum (the site where the gunman allegedly discharged
his bullets) increased by 45%. Similarly the movie Thelma and Louise released in May 1991 featured
Canyonlands and the Arches National Park Utah both of which experienced visitor increased of 22.6% with
an additional increase of 16.6% for the following year (See Table 1).
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Many movies have been shot on location in New Orleans and viewers have subsequently developed an
overall sense of the people, places and landmarks of the city. There are numerous depictions of crime,
violence and bad weather in these movies. New Orleans might come across as an unsafe city that is not
suitable for families. This is not necessarily the case as portrayed in the movie Double Jeopardy. Tourist
agencies should be aware of the potential gain for featuring positive images of a destination in a movie.
Riley et al, (1998) also identified a number of negative operational impacts due to the rise in tourist Bordelon and Dimanche (1998) research supports Beeton (2001) in that the negative imagery issues
numbers at movie-related sites in the USA. associated with movie induced tourism can have a detrimental effect on the development of a destination.
Best Practice Examples: The Integration of Movie Induced Tourism and Destination Branding
The influence of movie re-imaging rural areas has proven to be extremely important as illustrated by The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) in New Zealand. The application of film images and storylines to destination
marketing is one of the most recognisable uses of film in relation to tourism. Emotionally based images
from movies and television series can provide some differentiation of places and help them to compete in
what can be a crowded marketplace (Beeton, 2005). This research is supported by Busby and Klug (2001)
and O‟Connor, Flanagan and Russell (2005). Busby and Klug (2001) found in their study about the movie
Notting Hill, that two-thirds of the surveyed population agreed with the fact that movies encourage tourism
to a certain area. The key findings of this study also support Gartner‟s (1993) argument that image
formation agents (such as popular culture and news) can change destination images in a short time period.
According to Uysal, Chen and Williams (2000) there is a general belief that images and perceptions of a
place do not change quickly which supports the use of the imagery for a least a few more years. There is
evident to ensure maximum exposure from overseas that strong cinematic images remain for some time in
relation to the extended recognition as mentioned previously (Tooke and Baker 1996).
The LOTR coverage has been heavily focused on the USA and the UK and TNZ‟s priority was to ensure that wherever possible, an element of destinational coverage of New Zealand was included in the
newspaper and magazine supplements and features devoted to the films. In the UK major editorial features
on the LOTR (run with TNZ images) have appeared in the Independent, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Observer and the London Evening Standard. In the USA, New Zealand has achieved a
similarly strong print presence with one of the most important features appearing in the upscale Conde
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Nast Traveler. This feature fore grounded the LOTR Middle Earth story and highlighted the links between
New Zealand, the films and the stunning locations (TNZ, 2002). This kind of support is the first of its kind.
Mintel (2003) showed this in their research of the movie induced tourism phenomenon and Swan (2003)
found that the marketing strategy developed on the success of the Scottish television series The Monarch of the Glen has not been successful as demonstrated by New Zealand and the LOTR. Arguably the LOTR
presented a unique opportunity, which was the envy of other destination marketers. Whilst not every
destination has such an opportunity, too few effectively capitalise on those opportunities which do present
themselves, perhaps because of a lack of flexibility in their strategic planning, a lack of resources, or
because of poor direction from senior managers (Piggott, Morgan and Pritchard 2003).
The medium of film can reach and touch markets where deliberate traditional marketing cannot as „a movie
may generate and sustain interest in a destination in a way which destination marketers cannot afford to do’
(Tooke & Baker, 1996, pg. 88). Large screen movie presentations can give a destination something most
bodies responsible for tourism promotion simply could not pay for nor be able to produce hence this
supports the researchers‟ hypothesis in that movie-induced tourism has a significant impact on the development of a destination. VisitBritain‟s Movie Map being perhaps the most successful long running campaign (Urry, 1990) featured some 200 film and television locations around Britain that tourists could
visit. More recently a new series of such movie maps have been produced in connection with the 2004
„King Arthur‟ movie (ironically filmed in Ireland) and further recent additions have included movie maps and
trails in connection with „Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason‟ and ‘Closer’. The Scottish Tourist Board (STB) now operating under the name „VisitScotland‟ has also been very supportive of the film tourism concept (particularly since the 1995 film - Braveheart) (Bolan & Davidson, 2005) whereas Wicklow County
Tourism, Ireland has not been as supportive (O‟Connor, 2000). Movie maps perform a dual purpose of promoting the movies themselves as well as the destinations at which they were filmed. These examples
support the papers overall aim in that the benefits of movie-induced tourism can be strengthened through
destination branding. The success of movie maps is an integral element of induced tourism which can
have a very positive an impact on the development of a tourist destination.
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The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of movie induced tourism branding on the island of
Ireland. In addition to analysing and discussing existing academic discourse on the topic, an investigation
into the development issues of destination branding in relation to film was carried out. Key informant
interviews took place with staff of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB). These included the
organisation‟s Culture Heritage and Activity Tourism Manager who was instrumental in NITB‟s recent
Narnia campaign. The concept of movie-induced tourism, while not receiving much past recognition by
tourist authorities in Ireland (north or south) has sometimes come under the larger umbrella of cultural
tourism. The NITB have recently seized on the opportunity to brand Northern Ireland as the inspiration for
the mythical land of Narnia to coincide with the cinematic release of the Disney movie and the subsequent
DVD release. As such this provided an ideal case to further examine destination branding in relation to
movies as applied to Ireland.
Northern Ireland‟s tourist authority has recently used associations with the Belfast-born author C.S. Lewis, to promote the country in relation to the first Narnia film (although shot in New Zealand). Often the subject
area many Northern Ireland films (certainly those set in Northern Ireland) have addressed compared to
their southern counterparts makes it more difficult to attract tourists on the strength of the film. The older
and more „classic‟ movies such as The Quiet Man (1952) and Ryan’s Daughter (1970) from acclaimed directors like John Ford and David Lean were both filmed and set in the Republic and tapped into the view
that much of the rest of the world had of Ireland. Films associated with Northern Ireland have often in the
past either featured „the troubles‟ or had them as a backdrop to the movie. As such they were a more difficult „sell‟ in terms of their potential to attract tourists. When it became apparent that a major motion
picture of C.S. Lewis‟s Narnia - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was to be made it was obvious that there would be renewed interest in the author and his stories set in the mythical land of Narnia. Although New Zealand was the eventual choice of location and not Northern Ireland, the opportunity was still there to
use the movie to induce tourists to visit the province as C.S. Lewis was born there and had strong
childhood and adult ties to the country and its scenery.
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Narnia and Branding Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland has very much taken a leaf out of New Zealand‟s book and decided at last to tap into the rising potential of movie-induced tourism. Ironically this has been though a movie actually shot on location
in New Zealand and not in Northern Ireland itself. The Disney and Walden Media film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was released in December 2005 around the world. As previously mentioned,
the author of the book on which the film was based, C.S. Lewis, was born in Northern Ireland (Belfast).
Even after leaving the province, Lewis returned on many holiday visits and the landscape of Northern
Ireland from the Mourne Mountains in the south-east to Dunluce Castle on the north Antrim coast are said
to have inspired the author to create the magical land of Narnia.
With a major motion picture being made by a major studio (Disney) with an acclaimed director (Andrew
Adamson – director of the Shrek movies) based on a successful novel it would have been remiss not to
seize the opportunity to play on the Northern Ireland connection to further boost tourist visitation here.
There was, even before its release, every chance that the movie would be at least a mildly successful film.
To in some way use the publicity and interest in the movie to promote Northern Ireland seemed a very
worthwhile endeavour. The actual decision to use this first in a series of Narnia films, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to promote tourism in Northern Ireland first came about in April 2005 as a result of initial
joint collaboration between Queens University Belfast, Belfast City Council and the Northern Ireland Tourist
Board (NITB). While there was no formal contract or agreement required as such with either the C.S. Lewis
estate or the film-makers, there was communication with Walden Media from NITB through Queen‟s University as an intermediary. The opportunity was there to actually brand Northern Ireland as the
inspiration for Narnia and use the media hype surrounding the movie to carry this forward.
As there had been no prior planning by NITB to use Narnia and so tap into the rising concept of movie-
induced tourism, no real funding had been obtained or set aside in advance. Some STG?20,000 was re-
diverted into the campaign when the potential became more apparent. Approximately half of this financing
from the tourist board went into production of a glossy hard-copy brochure about C.S. Lewis, Narnia and
the Northern Ireland scenery that inspired him. This booklet was entitled „Northern Ireland – The C.S. Lewis Story: Unlock your Imagination‟. Similar information, both visual and textual, was added to a special section
of the NITB website (www.discovernorthernireland.com). As these website aspects did not incur any
additional costs much of the remainder of the STG?20,000 went on PR in relation to the campaign.
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