I have a confession to make and it is not pretty. I once skipped over the Mozart Footbridge in Salzburg trilling "doe, a deer, a female deer" in broad daylight with several amused Austrians looking on, just because Julie Andrews did it in The Sound of Music.
You may think this makes me a very sad case, but you'd be wrong. In fact, it makes me a set-jetter, one of a multiplying breed of tourists that base their travel plans on film locations.
It is amazing how many of us choose a holiday destination based on a film we have seen or a book we have read. New Zealand is still benefting from The Lord Of The Rings trilogy years and more recently, The Hobbit and the despite the fact the Harry Potter films have now come to an end Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and the others in the series will no doubt ensure that Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, gets a continuing flow of visitors for some time to come, thanks to its association with Harry Potter's Hogwarts school.
Set-jetters turned their sights on Morocco after the release of Sex and the City 2 and Julie Robert's sojourn on the paradise island in Eat Pray Love ensured that Bali benefited from the spotlight. Meanwhile the tiny town of Forks in Washington State is seeing red since fans of the Twilight series converged on the small town in which the teen vampire series is set.
According to The Guardian newspaper before author Stephenie Meyer wrote her books the town hosted 8000 tourists a year if it was lucky. Post-Meyer and Twilight it now welcomes the same number each month.
Not surprisingly you can now eat Twilight-themed food at local restaurants, dishes such as Bellasagne, (named after the story's heroine Bella) and Edward Steaks (after the vampire
hero), no doubt served rare. Shops sell false vampire teeth and other equally tasteful merchanise and Twighlight tours abound. The town has thus been transformed. Mike Gurling of the Forks Chamber of Commerce told The Guardian. "Two years ago we did not have a cash register or credit card terminal."
A film it seems can change the fortunes of the most unlikely locations just ask the blokes down at the Shiregreen Working Men's Club in the industrial wasteland outside Sheffield. It's not the most scenic part of Britain but a magnet for tourists since Robert Carlyle stripped off there in the finale of The Full Monty.
And if your country is the location for a real blockbuster with truly stunning scenery, it can change the tourism industry forever. "They say the Olympics bring in tourists, but being the location of a good Oscar-winner can beat that any day," said one tourism commentator. Absolutely. After the first The Lord Of The Rings film hit screens visitor numbers to New Zealand soared and the enthusiasm for all things hobbit-like shows little sign of slowing. Today there are almost more The Lord Of The Rings tours on offer than there were Orc extras. Judging by the brochures of many tour companies, New Zealand is Middle Earth.
The good news for New Zealand is that the magic of movies lasts. The Third Man, starring Orson Welles, was shown on the silver screen way back in 1949, but The Third Man walking tour of Harry Lime's Vienna is still one of the city's most popular attractions. How many tourism ad campaigns have that kind of longevity?
What kind of films inspire set-jetting?
The more lush the film, the more people flock to the locations; which is why those Merchant Ivory period pieces have such an effect on tourism. Maggie Smith's character in A Room With A View may have been consulting a 19th century Baedeker guidebook when she toured Venice, but that didn't stop a rush of 20th century bookings to the canal city when its beauty lit up the big screen. After Howards End was released, the British Tourist Authority noted a rush of travellers to Oxfordshire where much of the film was set.
The fortunes of many an English stately home have been saved by a lump sum from filmmakers on the lookout for a photogenic location and the coach loads of movie-mad tourists that followed. Mentmore Towers in Buckinghamshire, for example, has starred in Eyes Wide Shut, Brazil, The Mummy and Batman Begins.
Sometimes a film makes the scenery look so stunning that it can overcome the plot. Jurassic Park and Godzilla, both filmed on the island of Kauai, increased tourism to Hawaii even though both feature monsters on the rampage, not something you really want to meet on holiday.
Films with the actual country or continent in the title are particularly popular with tourist authorities and set-jetters alike. Out Of Africa inspired a whole generation of film buffs to go on safari in Kenya; A Passage To India did the same for the appeal of saris.
However, sometimes it gets confusing. A movie may be about one country but actually filmed in another, which leaves a dedicated set-jetter in a quandary when it comes to booking that international flight. The English Patient, for example, was set in Egypt but filmed in Tunisia and Sex and the City 2 was set in Dubai but filmed in Morocco. Then again, much of Lawrence Of Arabia was filmed in Spain.
Some set-jetters, of course, aren't too bothered by the authenticity of the location. James Bond movies have a whole sub-branch of set-jetters all to themselves. The franchise has been increasing tourism around the world for years, from the enduring popularity of Laughing Waters, Jamaica, where Ursula Andress came out of the sea in Dr. No, to the new discovery of the Vatnajokull ice cap in south-east Iceland that featured in Die Another Day.
I was astounded when, in the opening sequence of Notting Hill, Hugh Grant's character gave a monologue worthy of a TV travel show...
In Thailand 007 power is so great that Koh Ping Kan island off Phuket , which featured in The Man With the Golden Gun, has been renamed James Bond Island. Pierce Brosnan was back near Phuket in 1997 filming Tomorrow Never Dies, swiftly followed by Leonardo DiCaprio filming The Beach.
I'm amazed at how blatantly a film will act as tour guide. I was astounded when, in the opening sequence of Notting Hill, Hugh Grant's character gave a monologue worthy of a TV travel show extolling the delights of Portobello Road market and its surrounds. Who needs Getaway when you've got Grant? While we're on the subject of Grant; the use of very specific London locations in Love Actually and Bridget Jones's Diary have increased interest in parts of London tourists never traditionally visited. Apparently tourists are still occasionally caught in a clinch outside the Royal Exchange building in Cornhill, reliving the moment when Colin Firth kisses Renee Zellweger in the snow.
You think my skipping across Mozart Bridge was embarrassing, but how about the number of people faking orgasms at Katz's Deli on New York's E. Houston Street? The table at which Meg Ryan was so vocal in When Harry Met Sally now has a plaque on it and the waitress says she's so used to the screaming, she doesn't drop plates when it happens any more.
These days, of course, there is a whole new breed of junior set-jetters. For these children of a DVD age, even a cartoon can inspire air travel. Madagascar left children begging their parents to shell out for air tickets to the paradise isle. Rio now means South America is on the junior radar and, after Finding Nemo became such a hit, Queensland Tourism reported an increase in inquiries from families wanting to explore the Great Barrier Reef.
Who knows, as children insist their parents take them on a guided tour of England's Gloucester Cathedral because it doubles for parts of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, they may just learn something about history along the way.
Of course it may be going a step too far when advertisements influence our travel plans but sadly that can happen too. We predict Louis Vuitton's Campaign taking Angelina Jolie back to Cambodia will spark a whole new exodus to Angkor Wat - with LV monogrammed luggage naturally.
Hilary Doling Updated 24/7/11 & 1/13