Dubrovnik in Croatia, Sicily and Singapore all have one thing in common: Each of these destinations has experienced an economic boost in tourist numbers that can be traced back to popular TV shows.
Season two of hit HBO series The White Lotus broke viewership records, creating a ripple effect in tourism for the season’s filming location – Four Seasons’ San Domenico Palace in Taormina. Following the first episode, the hotel’s General Manager Lorenzo Maraviglia told Travel Weekly that there was an immediate spike in web traffic and bookings.
Google search numbers are always a good indicator of what’s trending and when season two of The White Lotus debuted, there was a spike in searches around traveling to Sicily. The same was true for Crazy Rich Asians and its impact on tourism in Singapore, which has seen a 14 percent year-on-year increase in visitor arrivals from the United States since 2018, not to mention an increase in Google searches made by Americans relating to Singapore.
Game of Thrones contributed more than US$200 million to Croatia’s economy, according to a study by the University of Zadar, and the number of annual visitors to Dubrovnik, immortalized on-screen as the tempestuous yet picturesque city of King’s Landing, has hit record highs.
Meanwhile, luxury travel companies such as United Kingdom-based Black Tomato are capitalizing on this popular travel trend by collaborating with EON Productions to pique the interest of James Bond fans. From stunt lessons and an Aston Martin driving experience to a martini masterclass, movie-inspired travel has resulted in a 170 percent increase in sales for Black Tomato over the past few years.
The 2023 Global Travel Trends Report by American Express found that 70 percent of gen Z and Millennials draw their travel inspiration from a movie or TV show they’ve recently viewed. Expedia also has reported that close to 40 percent of global travelers have booked trips based on destinations they’ve encountered in a TV show or film.
How did set-jetting come about?
The term set-jetting is by no means a new concept, but it has taken on a new-found resonance since the COVID-19 pandemic, when people turned to social media and streaming services to escape into another world. Since countries reopened their borders, viewers have found a new purpose that underpins their travel, proclaiming, “I’ve seen this landmark on screen, and now I’ve been there in person”.
The inventor of the term is believed to be journalist Gretchen Kelly, who mentioned it in the New York Post in 2008. And, if you’ve mistaken it for jet-setting, that would be because it is a play on the name of this form of luxury travel.
Here are a few of the hottest global set-jetting travel destinations to serve as inspiration for your next vacation.
The White Lotus (season two)
While season one of The White Lotus was shot at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea in Hawaii, Season Two features the stunning Mediterranean island of Sicily as its backdrop. Most of the action took place at San Domenico Palace – a 14th-century convent turned Four Seasons luxury escape in Taormina. The hotel is perched high above the Ionian Sea with breathtaking views from the clifftop infinity pool and surrounding Italian gardens.
Sicily’s legendary resort town of Taormina is famous for its ancient amphitheater and charming narrow streets. Tip: a great way to travel between the center and the coast is via the cable car.
Noto’s limestone piazza, located in the south-east of Sicily, and Villa Tasca in Palermo also add to the appeal of the show’s filming locations. Nestled within centuries-old trees, the villa is home to four luxurious suites.
The opening scene was filmed in the medieval town of Cefalù, where you’ll be met with the freshest fish and white sandy beaches – a big drawing card for tourists.
Where to stay:
San Domenico Palace: located in Taormina
Villa Taléddà: a contemporary designer villa overlooking Noto’s countryside
Villa Luna: a modern villa near Cefalù
Villa Tasca: an Airbnb-listed luxury property in Palermo offering impressive service for an exuberant price
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
This standalone sequel to the 2019 film Knives Out again centers around a murder mystery. When tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) hosts a murder mystery game at the Glass Onion, his mansion on a private island in Greece, a guest ends up dead.
The film was shot on location in Greece and Serbia. Bron’s tech house was partially filmed in Villa 20, which has incredible views of the Aegean Sea and the Peloponnese. The Peloponnesian Peninsula, where the villa is located, is one of the least explored parts of Greece and home to the quaint town of Nafplio. However, the grand property lacked one crucial detail: a glass pavilion at the top. This meant that the interiors were mostly shot in Belgrave to include this glass structure.
Prior to heading to the private island retreat, the group met at Spetses Island Harbor, where the Poseidonion Grand Hotel’s restaurant can be spotted in the background. This legendary five-star hotel has hosted royalty, politicians and dignitaries. Close to Athens, the Old Harbor in Spetses is a cosmopolitan neighborhood with plenty of stylish destinations for wining and dining.
Where to stay:
Villa 20: accommodates up to 18 guests in six suites and three luxury studio bedrooms
Poseidonion Grand Hotel: a favorite destination for high society, royalty and wealthy Athenians
NafplioBlu: a carbon-neutral hillside villa designed by award-winning architect Katerina Valsamaki
No Time to Die
Part of the James Bond series, this 2021 spy film is in keeping with the tradition of filming in cinematic locations, which may help explain why it was one of the highest-grossing films of 2021. According to The Guardian, Norway forked out $US5.3 million to be included, but that’s no reason not to venture this far north to check out the winding Atlantic Ocean Road where the car chase was shot, or the frozen Lake of Langvann near Oslo where the chilling massacre scene took place.
While Jamaica and London are predictably on the the list of filming locations, Kalsoy, an island in the Faroe Islands, formed some of the dark, dramatic backdrops. But perhaps the most intriguing destination of them all was the southern Italian town of Matera. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is recognizable for its ancient cave dwellings that have been transformed into spaces with luxurious touches.
Where to stay:
Aquatio Cave Luxury Hotel & SPA: a new 5-star hotel in Matera
Palazzo Gattini: once the home of the Gattinis, one of Matera’s noblest families
La Suite Matera: offers comfortable and quiet rooms to enjoy a well-deserved rest
The Barbie movie is ultimately split between real-world scenes in Los Angeles and the fictional Barbie Land, which was constructed and filmed in the United Kingdom.
“We took LA and put it into Barbie Land, but then subverted it so there’s a constant feeding between the two,” British production designer Sarah Greenwood told Conde Nast Traveler. However, the inspiration for Barbie Land and the overall aesthetic came from Palm Springs in California.
Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) were spotted roller-blading down Venice Beach in the film, a location that serves as a less perfect version of Barbie Land. With more than four million views on Instagram for #VeniceBeach, the film has clearly attracted public attention worth exploring.
Venues that the Barbie crew visited:
Parker Hotel, Palm Springs: a Jonathan Adler-designed Hollywood Regency-style hotel
Shutters on the Beach: a luxury Santa Monica beach hotel that touches the sands of Santa Monica Bay
Gjusta Bakery: a California deli, bakery, cafe and market
The Musso & Frank Grill: one of Hollywood’s oldest restaurants that’s been serving the finest cuisine for more than 100 years
Emily in Paris (season three)
While season two of Emily in Paris had a fashion upgrade, season three took Emily (Lily Collins) out of Paris and into the lavender fields of Provence. Season three commences with Emily having a nightmare that takes place at the top of the Eiffel Tower, a scene the actress recalled as being “wild and magical”. You too can experience this, as the tower is open up until midnight from mid-June to early September, and up to 11pm the rest of the year.
Be sure to check out Le Jules Verne, the Eiffel Tower restaurant that also features in the third season. You can follow in Emily’s footsteps by having a picnic at Parc des Buttes-Chaumont with its suspended bridge, or enjoying dinner at Café Lapérouse – one of the film crew’s go-to dining options.
A little further afield is Château de Montpoupon, where Emily and Alfie (Lucien Laviscount) enjoyed their hot air balloon ride; the similarly stunning Château de Sonnay became the setting for the eighth episode in the series. Only a three-hour drive from Paris, this stunning château in the French countryside is open to visitors.
Where to stay:
Molitor: the poolside scene where Mindy (Ashley Park) and Emily enjoy drinks was shot at this hotel
Clover Gordes: overlooks the lavender fields and olive trees of the Luberon valley
Airelles Gordes hotel: accommodates up to 40 suites and luxury rooms with unique decor
Nine Perfect Strangers
Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers is a 2021 American TV series based on Australian author Liane Moriarty’s New York Times bestseller of the same name. As guests gather for a 10-day retreat at the fictional Tranquillum House, each participant hopes to heal and transform themselves with the help of retreat owner Masha Dmitrichenko (Nicole Kidman). Little do they know that they are all subjects of an experiment.
Although filming was originally planned to take place in California, the pandemic led the cast and crew to turn their attention to Australia, prompted by actress and executive producer Kidman. The last-minute change meant that Soma, Byron Bay would serve as the real-life representation of Tranquillum House.
Nestled among the rolling hills of the Byron hinterland, the 9-hectare property in Ewingsdale is renowned for its modern design as much as its wellness concept. Soma is also home to the geodesic yoga dome designed by architect Rieky Sunur.
“It was perfect with its amazing woods, jungles and beaches, and captured the feeling we were looking for,” Director Jonathan Levine told Forbes. “The resort itself is such a big character.”
In need of additional space, sustainable timber plantation Lune de Sang became the second filming location. Equipped with sheds, an outdoor yoga space and a private residence, the plantation also has fig trees that helped provide a sense of continuity between these two venues. Some of the outdoor scenes were filmed in nearby Ballina and in Sydney.
While filming, Kidman stayed in an Spanish-style eco-hideaway in the Coopers Shoot area.
Where to stay:
The Range: a house to rent since 2018, overlooking the hills of the Byron Bay hinterland
Soma Byron Bay: led by Soma Co-Founder, Gary Gorrow
Fortyfive Lawson: a five-star luxury apartment with modern architecture and design
Crazy Rich Asians
This 2018 romantic comedy-drama was nominated for two Golden Globes, in both the Best Movie and Best Actress categories. The plot revolves around a New Yorker meeting her boyfriend’s family in Singapore for the first time, only to discover that they are “crazy rich Asians”. Raking in more than US$238 million, the film was a commercial success that shined a spotlight on Singapore’s must-visit places.
This year Changi Airport was named World’s Best Airport for the 12th time in Skytrax rankings, and so it makes perfect sense that this airport would feature in the film. With its air-conditioned rainforest, theater and butterfly garden, the airport itself provides a compelling reason to make the world’s only island city-state your next travel destination.
Thanks to the film, Newton Food Centre became a hotspot for food lovers. R&B Express is among the hawker stalls with Michelin Star ratings. Of course, a visit to Singapore isn’t complete without exploring the iconic Gardens By The Bay. But if you fancy panoramic views of the city, head up to the observation deck at the top of Marina Bay Sands, or treat yourself to a swim in the hotel’s infinity pool, which is the world’s largest.
The film transports viewers beyond the city to Sentosa Island, which offers an array of attractions and tropical beaches that are accessible by car, bus, cable car or simply on foot via a boardwalk.
For cocktails and seafood, look no further than the Chinatown-based Humpback restaurant, which was also featured in the film.
Some of the luxury accommodation options that were shot in Singapore, and neighboring Malaysia, are listed below.
Where to stay:
Raffles Singapore: experience the legendary Raffles Butler Service for yourself
Four Seasons Resort Langkawi: luxury resort located in the Langkawi UNESCO Global Geopark
Cheong Fatt Tze – The Blue Mansion: the most iconic boutique heritage hotel in Penang, Malaysia
Marina Bay Sands Singapore: an important landmark in Singapore and the central meeting point for business, entertainment and leisure in Asia
The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur: a luxury hotel in the heart of Kuala Lumpur renowned for its extensive art collection