Film fans flock to UK locations, reeling in £1.8bn

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Tourists keen to visit the scenic backdrops from their favourite films are flocking to the UK in their thousands, boosting the economy to the tune of £1.8bn, according to a new report published today.

From Highland landscapes made famous in Trainspotting to the platforms of Kings' Cross station used in the Harry Potter series, tourists are lining up to have their photographs taken at their favourite locations. And the UK Film Council claims this growing band of "film tourists" accounts for one in 10 of the visitors that come to the UK on holiday.

It is a departure from years gone by when many would have limited themselves to a tour of the historic buildings of the capital city such as the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace.

International film fans are now taking off to remote areas, including the wilds of Northumberland, to view the site used for Hogwarts school of wizardry in Harry Potter. They are also making for Cheshire's Lyme Park, famed for Mr Darcy's sexually charged wet-shirt moment in the film adapation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. There, visitor numbers have tripled.

But tourism is on the rise in even more unlikely places because of the power of the silver screen. Gurinder Chadha's story of a young Asian female football fanatic, Bend it like Beckham, which became an instant hit, suddenly placed the west London town of Southall on the international tourist map.

Also, television programmes such as the children's favourite, Balamory as well as Monarch of the Glen have opened up new parts of Scotland to visitors who in the past might have swung past Edinburgh Castle and Loch Ness before heading home.

The report, commissioned by film and tourism bodies, revealed that Balmory created an immense ripple effect on the village of Tobermory, on the Scottish island of Mull. The village, where the population is just under 1,000, drew 160,000 visitors to the island in 2003, a rise of 40 per cent on the previous year. Scotland's tourist body, VisitScotland, estimated that the series contributed £5m a year to the tourist economy of Mull and the Western Islands.

Locations of cinematic inspiration or importance in the creation of a film classic have also been targeted by visitors. One such place is the Edinburgh cafe where J K Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book which continues to receive as many as 10 visitors a day asking to see where she sat.

King's Cross station, meanwhile, has erected a plaque marking "Platform nine and three quarters" in response to the huge visitor demand to know where schoolchildren heading for the Hogwarts school depart.

And it is not just modern classics that are drawing ever increasing crowds. In Thetford, Norfolk, Dad's Army tours are more popular than ever almost 40 years after the comedy first aired. And the Seventies cult comedy, Monty Python and the Holy Grail still draws fans to Doune Castle in Stirlingshire.

John Woodward, chief executive of the UK Film Council, said the effect of film tourism was long-lasting. "British films and television programmes play a powerful role in showcasing the UK to the rest of the world and that is boosting tourism.

"There are countless examples of visitors flocking to locations they've seen in films or on TV and the effect can last for years. Margaret Hodge, the minister for film and tourism, said it was "terrific" that the locations of successful fims were "becoming destinations in their own right as people seek to relive their favourite movie moments".