Pulling power of Bath’s film and TV locations boosts city’s tourism sector’s post-Covid recovery

March 15, 2024

Nearly a third of tourists visiting Bath and the West of England have been influenced by seeing the region on screen in shows such as Bridgerton, according to new research.

Visit West, the region’s destination marketing organisation, said 30% of visitors were attracted by films or shows shot locally. This reflects the increasing value of ‘set-jetting’, or screen tourism, to the UK visitor economy. 

The organisation behind the Visit Bath website – one of the UK’s most successful consumer tourism sites – released its two latest pieces of research to coincide with English Tourism week, which started today.

One report estimates the value of tourism to the region to be worth £2.13bn, with the sector employing around 41,000 people.

These figures show it has almost fully recovered from the devastating impact of Covid-19, with its contribution to the regional economy now 91.5% of its pre-pandemic 2019 figure.

At that time some 45,000 people were working in the industry in the region.

The report also shows that food, drink and retail account for almost 60% of all visitor purchases, with day trips making up almost half of the total spend in the region.

Of those staying for at least one night, 79% came from within the UK, with 21% international visitors.

A second piece of research commissioned by Visit West and funded by the West of England Combined Authority surveyed visitors to the region.

As well as revealing the pulling power of its film and TV locations, it also showed some people mentioned that their trip was to visit a specific venue or attraction such as The Roman Baths or to a restaurant such as Sally Lunn’s.

Visit West managing director Kathryn Davis said English Tourism Week was a chance to celebrate what the industry meant to the local economy and to understand its importance to the region.

“Through our diverse work with tour operators and media, we have ensured the region is included in itineraries, brochures and travel publications across the world,” she said.

“None of this would be possible without the amazing people who work in the industry either directly or indirectly, our friendly west country welcome, the vast range and quality of attractions, food and drink experiences, cultural activities and events, along with a fantastic shopping offer.” 

Bath has long been a popular filming location, with its Georgian squares and crescents used for countless so-called bonnet-buster historical dramas dating back decades.

More recently it has starred in contemporary detective series McDonald & Dodds.

But it was the huge success of Netflix period drama Bridgerton that gave Bath its biggest boost, allowing the city to join a select roll call of places that has become known for ‘set-jetting’, or screen tourism. 

More than 70 scenes were filmed in Bath in four blocks between August and November 2019 – with the economic impact of this seen in the large numbers of Bridgerton-related tours in the city since.

In 2021 iconic international magazine TIME named Bath among the 100 greatest places in the world, noting that Bridgerton fans had been pouring into the city to immerse themselves in the drama and scandal of the Regency-era romance with new guided tours”.

Bath tourism chiefs are also hoping the city’s appearance in hit movie Wonka will bring another boost to the city.

A number of scenes in the fantasy musical were shot in Bath, with parts of the city transformed into a winter wonderland when shooting took place in 2021, including Bath Street, which was dressed in artificial snow.

Wonka, from the writing and directing team behind the successful Paddington films, tells the origin story of Willy Wonka, a character from Roald Dahl’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

Visit West, which regularly attends travel trade events around the world to showcase the region, was last year awarded LVEP (Local Visit Economy Partnership) status by Visit England, meaning it can access more support and training opportunities to find ways to attract new visitors to the region.

Under the new scheme it can also attract new investment opportunities to help supercharge an industry that remains crucial to the region’s economy.

As well as the Visit Bath website, Visit West also runs Meet Bristol and Bath, the region’s convention bureau that includes business development and marketing of the region as a destination for business events, along with a comprehensive digital programme of direct mail, social channels and campaigns along with extensive work with the travel and influencer media.

The research and visitor survey were carried out by The South West Tourism Research Company and The Evidence Agency respectively.


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