After a year in which holidaymakers have been warned in ever bleaker terms about the environmental impact of their flights abroad, many forecasters have been predicting a gloomy 2008 for the aviation and tourist industries.

But research shows a host of extravagant, exotically located blockbusters to be released next year willintroduce British tourists to far-flung corners of the world. The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) is predicting a rush of bookings to obscure destinations featured in films due to hit the screens over the next few months.

Among the lesser-known places where fans will follow in stars' footsteps is Darwin, in Australia's Northern Territory, where the film Australia is set. Starring Nicole Kidman, the film shows the devastating bombing of Darwin by the Japanese during the Second World War.

Together with The Cup, in which the former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan becomes involved in Australia's most famous horse race, the Melbourne Cup, cinema screens are likely to play a major role in driving travel down under in 2008.

"Australia has always been a very popular tourist destination for British families," said David Marshall, a spokesman for Abta. "What may be slightly different about next year is that the destinations are quirkier, not just the obvious Sydney, Brisbane, or Perth. That could be because people have been inspired by something they've seen at the cinema.

"People identify very closely with the locations of their favourite films," he added. "Lavish and beautiful settings are among the most significant drivers of growth in tourism, with more people than ever before choosing to holiday somewhere simply because they've seen it at the cinema. Films are a terrific form of advertisement for regions and places that don't otherwise get much publicity.

"Over the past decade or so, one or two films have been brilliant advertisements for the country in which they were shot. The Lord of the Rings trilogy did an enormous amount for New Zealand's tourist industry, and Captain Corelli's Mandolin did more for [the Greek island] Cephalonia than anyone might have imagined."

The much-anticipated UK release of Mike Newell's Love in the Time of Cholera, the adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 1985 novel, is expected to stimulate a rush of interest in Cartagena, the exotic city seaport on the north-eastern tip of Colombia.

Another country which is not a favourite holiday destination at present but which could profit handsomely from a film release next year, is Botswana. The landlocked nation in southern Africa was the location for filming of No1 Ladies' Detective Agency, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Alexander McCall Smith.

Abta also predicted an above-average number of Britons would visit France next autumn to mark the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War, and also visit as Beijing, where China will host the Olympics next summer.

Despite concerns about the environmental impact of foreign travel, "our enthusiasm for overseas holidays in 2008 will not be diminished", said Justin Fleming, Abta's president.