One of five travellers has purposely visited a destination they saw in a TV show. These tourist flows are usually welcomed by city municipalities because of their economic contribution. However, the effects on local communities are rarely taken into consideration and little is known about how popular representations in the media and the related tourist flows affect people’s self-perception and the local living conditions. Although sustainable tourism and locals’ engagement in tourism planning are at the core of the European Union agenda, anti-tourism sentiments have emerged in response to the negative effects tourism can have on local communities. For example, in a Spanish filming location for the TV series Game of Thrones, locals posted indignant messages such as “This is not Invernalia, you are now in Euskal Herria!” in public spaces.
The project proposes a place-based approach which combines ethnographic techniques and textual analysis to explore questions such as: Which films strongly influence travel decision-making? How accurately do films represent the identity of a place? In what way do these mediated representations affect locals’ sense of belonging? Spain, a tapestry of regional identities and one of the world’s top tourism destinations, will serve as a case study. By exploring the intersection between mediated representations, audience reception and media tourism in two unique cities, Barcelona and Sevilla, the investigation will contribute to the advancement of studies on European media tourism with the help of a novel mixed-method approach. It will serve to empower the locals in tourism-decision making and can be generalized to other European cities. The study will also design the first film tourism-policy and guide for sustainable film tourism in Spain. Collaborations with film and tourism organizations (e.g. Spanish Film Commission) will guarantee the societal relevance and exploitation of this project’s results.