Published September 26, 2011
Want to rally tourists to your city, state, hotel or restaurant? Invite the Dunphys, or the Frankels or the odd bachelor.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming is capitalizing this month on the season opener of the ABC hit “Modern Family,” where the Dunphy and Pritchett families travel to the Rocky Mountain vacation spot.
The state tourism department estimates the exposure the city has gotten, which included more than 400 print, television and media features, would have cost nearly $500,000 in advertising.
“We would never be able to afford a nationally broadcast 30 minute segment on network television during prime time,” Diane Shober, the director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism said. “We are confident that this episode of 'Modern Family' will inspire many Americans to not only consider, but plan a trip to Wyoming.”
With the tourism industry feeling a crunch worldwide, television offers a way for towns and businesses, like hotels and restaurants, to gain an edge over their competitors, without shelling out millions of dollars for an advertising campaign.
To take advantage of the “Modern Family” spot the Wyoming tourism board launched a concurrent sweepstakes with United Airlines and Lost Creek Ranch for a family of four to take a trip next summer. There were 10,000 entries by the time the show aired.
The city of Philadelphia has similarly capitalized on the show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” by interacting with fans of the comedy on their tourism website.
“Our blog, uwishunu.com follows the Sunny pretty closely, letting us engage with our audience via the show,” said Cara Schneider the media relations director for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. “The show helps us connect our tourism personality with a topical, fun element of pop culture.”
Schneider says the show has a subtle impact on the city’s image and a more direct influence by letting the tourism board talk to visitors about the show and themed “Sunny” activities visitors can partake in.
In years past scripted programs like “Cheers” in Boston and “Grey’s Anatomy” in Seattle have lured the curious fan hoping to sit on Norm’s bar stool or ride the ferry like Meredith Grey, but reality television also works as a boon for tourism around the world.
Maria Maruca, the executive director of the Seaside Heights Business Improvement District has coined the phrase “Jersey Shore effect.”
Maruca estimates that Seaside Heights has recently seen an approximate 20 percent bump in beach visitors. But the most lucrative part is that those visitors are no longer just day trippers from Philadelphia and New York. Seaside Heights now has tourists from all over the country who not only stay on the beach, but pay to stay in the tiny town’s hotels.
In fact, it's been such a boon for business the state of New Jersey give the show $420,000 in tax credits in return for its contribution to the state's economy, until Gov. Chris Christie reportedly decided to kill the credit.
In July 2010, after an episode of Bravo’s Bethenny Getting Married featured Bethenny Frankel and her husband Jason Hoppy honeymooning in St. Barts, the phones at Wimco, a luxury vacation villa and hotel reservations company that books spaces on the island, began ringing off the hook.
“The 'Bethenny effect' for us was that revenue from near term bookings went up 37 percent. Everybody wanted to know where Bethenny stayed and could they book the same place.
Of course, we don't say where any guest stayed, whether it be a villa or hotel, as privacy is always top-of-mind. But suffice to say, we booked a lot of trips to St. Barts for Real Housewives fans after that show aired," said Stiles Bennet, Wimco president.
Similarly, when Frankel hosted a girls’ night and stayed in the penthouse of the Gansevoort Hotel in New York, the location saw a noticeable uptick.
“For viewers around the country who follow Bethenny, and may travel to New York, now Gansevoort Park is top of mind for them to stay, or have a drink,” said Mike Achenbaum, president of the Gansevoort Hotel Group. “We see upsurges in web and phone traffic immediately after a show that was filmed on location airs.”
Former Bachelor Jason Mesnick and his wife Molly recently promoted a trip to Fiji playing off this season’s “Bachelor “excursion to the Pacific Island. The travel operator, Down Under Answers also saw their business blow up.
“We’ve seen an increase of 250 percent on hits to the Fiji pages on our website since the airing of the episode,” said Kirk Demeter, president, Down Under Answers. “The public truly became engaged with Fiji during and after the airing of The Bachelorette, and we’ve seen a tremendous growth in our Fiji business."
The Mesnicks actually made themselves part of Down Under’s travel package, hob nobbing with guests, hearkening back to those old school celebrity cruises where members of the Love Boat would perform a lounge act and dance with your wife.
“For Bachelor fans it was a fun chance for people to hang out with us and they get to say, ‘hey I saw this place on TV and it looks pretty great’,” Mesnick said.