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Screen-inspired: Set-jetting in the UK

Seeking holiday inspiration from films, soaps or sitcoms is the new global travel trend, with the UK remaining an evergreen choice

Highclere Castle in Hampshire, the iconic location from ‘Downtown Abbey’. (iStockphoto)

By Teja Lele

LAST PUBLISHED 30.04.2024  |  07:00 AM IST

On a family trip to Wales last summer, I made time for the usual suspects: Pembrokeshire, Aberystwyth, Anglesey and the national parks. I also made a day trip to Devil’s Bridge, a place I had only seen in a couple of episodes of Hinterland, a noir crime drama set in Wales. The dark and atmospheric Devil’s Bridge comprises three bridges that span the Afon Mynach, a tributary of the Rheidol. Each one, built upon the previous bridge, can be reached by the Rheidol Steam Railway, and had made it to my travel wish list since I saw the show in 2018.

I am not the only one who’s guided by the screen when it comes to travel plans. According to Expedia, the screen is sparking wanderlust across the world. The travel company’s 2023 report The No-Normal: Unexpected Travel Trends revealed that 66% of travellers worldwide have “considered visiting a destination after seeing it featured in a show or movie they have streamed at home, and 39% have booked a trip for the same reason". The company’s Unpack 2024 research predicted that the trend would continue this year, with “movies and streaming shows (the) top inspiration for travel".


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Be it gorgeous landscapes of New Zealand (The Rings of Power) or the natural beauty of Maui and Sicily (The White Lotus), the urbanity of Paris (Emily in Paris) or the glamour and glitz of New York (Sex and the City reboot), travellers are planning trips to locations popularised by TV series and movies.

In fact, Expedia believes this will lead destinations such as Thailand (The White Lotus, season 3), the Scottish Highlands (Outlander, season 7), Malta (Gladiator 2), Greece (Argylle) and South Korea (Squid Game, season 2) to trend in 2024.

Nishant Pitti, CEO and co-founder, EaseMyTrip, agrees that seeking holiday inspiration from films, soaps or sitcoms is the new global travel trend that is influencing tourists’ holiday plans and is expected to gain momentum this year. “This is a rather unconventional take on travelling and vacationing, with new movies and TV series generating higher interest in travel to those places," he says.

The trend has been around for a while, especially after Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, but screen-inspired travel has soared post-pandemic. One destination though that remains an evergreen choice for set-jetting is the UK, due to the fact that so many films and series have been shot here.

Over the years, iconic film and TV franchises such as James Bond, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Outlander, The Crown and Paddington have consistently chosen UK locations and studios to house their productions. Recent films such as Wonka and Napoleon have boosted visitor numbers, while the growth of TV streaming has fuelled a rise in screen tourism. The fact that films and series have been filmed across Britain, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland has led to numerous set-jetting opportunities.

A still from ‘The Crown'.

With inbound tourists spending an estimated £892.6 million (around 9,194 crore) in film-related screen tourism in the UK in 2019 alone, according to the British Film Institute (BFI), the country is tapping the potential of screen tourism.


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Pitti says the UK tops the list owing to its scenic beauty and the right blend of royalty, history and modern experiences that create the perfect backdrop for historical dramas and contemporary shows. “For instance, Chatsworth House in Peak district was featured in Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley). The UK has also been the centrepiece of shows like Downton Abbey and Bridgerton (Hampton Court Palace). Even the Harry Potter franchise sought inspiration from the alluring Scottish Highlands to create a mystical fantasy world for children," he says.

The choices for travellers are plentiful. The British Film Commission, the agency that supports production of international films and television in the UK, in 2022 alone supported film and TV titles such as Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, The Crown, season 6, The Boys in the Boat, Black Cake and Napoleon.

“There are so many shows that have been shot in the UK that you can never really stop set-jetting. Think Broadchurch (Dorset), Sex Education (Wales), Downton Abbey (Hampshire), Sherlock (London), The Crown (London and Scotland), Shetland (Shetland), Ted Lasso (Richmond)… the list can go on," says Mumbai-based flight attendant Shweta Singh, who went on a Game of Thrones tour in Northern Ireland, post-covid.

The numbers reveal the blockbuster gains the destinations have made. The 2019 Shetland Islands Visitor Survey showed that 55% of leisure visitors to the remote islands were inspired to visit Shetland by something they had seen or read—an increase from 46% in 2017. Bath benefited to the tune of £1.5 million from domestic visitors alone in 2022 as fans flocked to locations from Shonda Rhimes’ regency drama Bridgerton, which first aired in December 2020. Birmingham reported a 26% increase in visitors between 2013, when the first Peaky Blinders season aired, and 2018, according to West Midlands Growth Company, the economic development agency for Birmingham and the West Midlands.

According to Patricia Yates, CEO, tourism agency VisitBritain, their research shows that films and TV are powerful motivators for travel. “With almost a third of potential visitors to Britain keen to visit locations used in filming and seen-on-screen, film tourism is a valuable and growing part of our global tourism offer," she said in December 2023 after signing a memorandum of understanding with the British Film Commission to boost screen tourism across UK.

Most visitors typically land in London when they visit the UK. They then embark on a popular tourist trail, most often Cambridge, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, York and Edinburgh, and leave without exploring the many facets of the UK. Screen tourism lets travellers explore more of unseen, unexplored Britain.

This backs Expedia’s outlook that TV shows are now more of a draw “than Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, with breathtaking landscapes and outdoorsy locations unsurprisingly generating the most interest, followed by lesser-known locales and beaches".

Travel search aggregator Skyscanner’s 2024 forecast revealed that set-jetting is particularly popular in India, with 94% of travellers motivated to go on a trip to a destination seen on the big or small screen. As many as 62% of them went on to book these holidays.

Pune-based Dhanashree Thosar, business quality head at an IT major, feels the surge in set-jetting is a consequence of the rise in consumption of digital media content on OTT platforms. Her plans for the future include travelling to the Scottish highlands. “The Harry Potter series, books and movies, is one of my favourites, and I would love to see the magical places where the movies were filmed," she says.

VisitBritain has forecast that spending by international visitors in the UK in 2024 will be £34.1 billion, up 7% on 2023 and 20% on 2019. The rising demand led London-based luxury travel company Black Tomato to launch TV-inspired itineraries and experiences in 2017 for immersive trips to places where many binge-worthy series, including The Crown and Downton Abbey, in the UK were filmed.

Set-jetting also draws a wide demographic of tourists to a range of locations—from seniors and families to millennials and solo travellers.

American Express’ 2023 Global Travel Trends Report revealed that 70% of Gen Z and millennials draw their travel inspiration from a movie or TV show they have recently viewed.

“I binge-watch a lot of shows. It started during the pandemic but continued, and has sparked a wanderlust. Next up on my list is Derry, in Northern Ireland, the home of Derry Girls," Singh says.



California, US (Barbie)

New York, US (And Just Like That, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel)

Sicily, Italy (The White Lotus)

Atlantic Road, Norway (Succession)

Paris (Emily in Paris)

Montana, US (Yellowstone)

Bucharest, Romania (Wednesday)

Wadi Rum, Jordan (Dune)

Hobbiton, New Zealand (Lord of the Rings)

Dubrovnik, Croatia (Game of Thrones)

Teja Lele writes on travel and lifestyle.

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