Tourist destinations have long benefited from being Hollywood movie locations to attract more tourists to their shores. New Zealand successfully leveraged its national treasures as the backdrop for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies and although Tinsel Town may be a long way from Thailand, its glitz has certainly sprinkled the Land of Smiles with some movie magic in recent years.
Thailand has provided the setting for a good number of Hollywood blockbusters in the last decade, including The Beach, Hangover II. The gleaming beaches and swaying palms on the silver screen have lured tourists to the Kingdom form around the world in search of a holiday that can transform their screen experience into reality.
The world fell in love with Koh Phi Phi’s pure shores in The Beach (2000), a journey of three young travellers, including Leonardo DiCaprio, who join a small beach community on a secluded island paradise in the Gulf of Thailand. The Kingdom saw a 22% increase in young travellers looking for idyllic getaways that year.
In 2011, it was initially thought that the wild Bangkok antics depicted in The Hangover II might have a negative effect on tourism in Thailand, but the opposite happened. “Hangover II helped to promote Thailand, and after its success, several foreign filmmakers were more confident about shooting their movies here,” said Wansiri Morakul, director of the Thailand Film Office.
Released in 2012, The Impossible is another Hollywood film that cause some concern for Thailand’s tourism chiefs. Starring Naomi Watts, the movie was filmed in Khao Lak and depicted the tragic events surrounding the famous Tsunami that hit that part of the Andaman coast in 2004. However, sensitive direction and a storyline that emphasised the willingness of Thai people to help stranded foreigners during the disaster once again proved positive for the country’s tourism numbers.
Perhaps the most influential film for Thailand tourism in recent years, however, was the Chinese romcom “Lost in Thailand”. The popularity of the film contributed to a huge surge in the number of Chinese visitors to the Kingdom last year, particularly to the northern city of Chiang Mai where most of the movie was filmed. Many of the city’s cultural attractions provided the backdrop for the movie, which eventually set a new money making record, earning US$160 million at the box office, even more than Titanic.
Two 2014 Hollywood movies: The Railway Man and The Coup were shot partly in Thailand and with more scheduled in the next two years, it seems overseas visitors will continue to follow in the footsteps of their big screen idols.
by MAX VEE