Italian Americans are constantly fighting Mafia stereotypes. New Zealanders are fed up with Tolkien tourists. Italian policemen chase people out of the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

Blockbuster hits like “The Godfather” and “The Lord of the Rings” can bring a massive influx of tourism to the locations where they are filmed. But headaches often follow.

Mel Gibson’s historic action film was released in 1996 “Brave Heart“resulted in a 300% increase in visitor numbers to the National Wallace Monument in Scotland.Harry Potter“The film franchise caused tourism to grow by at least 50% in every UK location where the films were filmed, according to a 2006 article in the Journal of Travel Research.

Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” resulted in a 300 percent increase in visitors to the National Wallace Monument in Scotland.

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So-called film tourism can stimulate the local economy and fill gaps created by seasonal tourism lulls. But there is often a downside.

Negative connotations

Considered one of the greatest films of all time – “The Godfather“- created a unique set of problems for the locations shown in the film.

Part of the film takes place in the Sicilian village of Corleone, where the character of Mafia boss Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, was born and raised before he emigrated to New York City.

Fans of “The Godfather” trilogy still associate Corleone, Sicily with crime, violence and mafia culture.

Michael Ochs Archive | Filmpix | Getty Images

The artist Maria D. Rapicavoli, who studied the town of Corleone, said that many tourists are looking for the atmosphere of “The Godfather”, but leave disappointed if they do not meet the Mafiosi.

“I’m not sure what they’re looking for – maybe men who hold guns in the street or … women who wear black?” She told CNBC.

Rapicavoli has examined her experiences there in an exhibition entitled “If You Saw What I Saw” and writes that Corleone is a place where people “play the role of actors in front of an audience of discerning tourists, as if their city were one permanent film set would be. “

In a description of the exhibition she told of people she had met: a Polish tourist looking for the “godfather’s village”, a Canadian who enjoyed a “real Mafia atmosphere”, and a tour guide who taught about the Italian mob there.

Ironically, the film wasn’t even shot in Corleone, but in the Sicilian villages of Savoca and Forza d’Agro.

The popularity of “The Godfather” as well as “Goodfellas” and The untouchables“Caused problems in the United States too. Some argue that, to the millions of viewers who have seen them, these films unfairly typify Italian Americans as violent and misogynistic criminals.

Reckless behavior

“The Hangover“and its depictions of drug-addicted, wild bachelorette parties can encourage reckless behavior in Las Vegas. People try to mimic famous scenes in the movie, including sneaking up on the roof and wondering where to find live tigers,” according to the Las Vegas Review- Journal.

People still quote the famous line, “Did Caesar Live Here?” in the main lobby of Caesars Palace, a hotel representative told CNBC. Others ask to stay in the “Hangover Suite” – even though these parts of the film were shot on a film set.

A wax figure of actor Zach Galifianakis depicting the character Alan Garner in “The Hangover ‘Experience” at Madame Tussauds Las Vegas.

Bryan Steffy | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Tour packages and replica sets in Las Vegas allow fans of the trilogy to relive the film without chaos.

On the other side of the Atlantic, film fans defy local laws.

Since the release of the famous Italian film director Federico Fellini “The sweet life“In 1960, inspired tourists mimicked the film’s most memorable scene by climbing Rome’s Trevi Fountain. To this day – some 60 years later – the Italian authorities continue to struggle with overzealous fans, some of whom waded proudly in dresses and fur stoles as they waded around the fountain.

The actors Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in the Trevi Fountain in Rome during the filming of “La Dolce Vita” by director Federico Fellini in 1959.

Umberto Cicconi | Hulton Archives | Getty Images

Other incidents were more chaotic. Tourists were caught swimming and splashing around, sometimes naked. Others have tried to climb on the sculptures or carve their names into them, which puts the architecture at risk.

Rome’s authorities have begun cracking down on intruders and have fined up to 450 euros ($ 527) for disorderly behavior around the fountain, according to Italian media reports.

In 2020, a plan to build a 1 meter high steel and glass barrier around the fountain was approved by Rome City Council but received heavy criticism from monument experts who feared it would ruin the view.


New Zealand has seen a massive tourism boom thanks to “the Lord of the rings” and “The Hobbit“Trilogies.

In what is referred to as “Tolkien tourism,” travelers look for locations where the films were shot, such as Matamata – which served as the Shire – and the picturesque Queenstown reservation, where the character of Boromir met an early death.

According to Tourism New Zealand, the country’s tourism authority, one in three New Zealand visitors visited at least one movie set in 2019. In the same year, more than one in ten people went to Hobbiton, where guided set tours of Hobbit’s homes are offered.

Film buffs can take part in “Second Breakfast” tours in Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand.

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The films are why, according to Tourism New Zealand, in 2019 around 10% of all visitors to New Zealand were seriously considering traveling there. These travelers contributed around $ 630 million ($ 437 million) to the country’s economy in 2019 alone, the tourism authority told CNBC.

However, a survey by the tourism association found that almost one in five Kiwis is concerned that the country is attracting too many tourists. According to a 2019 report by Tourism New Zealand, overcrowding at tourist attractions, lack of infrastructure, traffic jams and environmental damage create tension between locals and visitors.

Popularized by Leonardo DiCaprio’s adventure drama “The beach,Maya Bay on the Thai island of Phi Phi Leh was closed to visitors in 2018 after a surge in tourists damaged the island’s environment.

The popularity of Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2000 adventure film “The Beach” made Thailand’s Maya Bay a hotspot for international tourists.

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After the film was released in 2000, the once-deserted bay became a popular destination for tourists from Phuket and Krabi. Tourists, said to be up to 5,000 daily, traveled to the area by boat, leaving behind trash and pollution that harmed local wildlife and corals.

About three years later, Maya Bay will remain closed. Some visitors were allowed to tour the island as part of a reopening test, a Thai tourism representative told CNBC.

Exaggerated effect

Film tourism doesn’t always get mad.

The release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens“(2015) and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017) sparked a significant surge in interest in Ireland’s Skellig Michael, an island that appears in both films.

According to the Irish Office of Public Works, which oversees the site, nearly 17,000 people visited the island in 2018 – an increase from the 11,100 visitors who had visited a decade earlier.

A fan disguised as Rey from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” stands on Skellig Michael, an island that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Charles McQuillan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

However, contrary to media reports, UNESCO has not viewed the surge in tourists as a threat to the site.

Mechtild Rossler, the director of the UNESCO World Heritage Center, said UNESCO contacted Ireland about the increased tourism in Skellig Michael after the “Star Wars” films were released.

“Ireland informed the World Heritage Center that there has been an increase in the number of visitors to the area on the mainland, but this is not reflected in the number of visitors to the island itself,” she said.

Skellig Michael is open May through September, but tourists are capped at 180 daily, a representative from the Irish Office of Public Works told CNBC. This limit was introduced in 1994 and approved by UNESCO in 1995 according to a draft management plan for the area published in November 2020.

Tourist boats to the island are also limited and require special permits to operate, Rossler said.