Let me begin by stating the following:
Never have I ever watched The Jersey Shore.
Never have I ever watched any Kardashian show.
Never have I ever watched any Real Housewives of anywhere.
I have watched 2 seasons of The Bachelor.
It seems that people are either completely obsessed with Reality TV or completely disgusted by it. I’m a bit indifferent. I am intrigued by the concept but as soon as they started to list “writers” on these shows in the credits, I tuned out. That, and it seems like so many of these shows involve a lot of crying girls. Eh.
I just read a thought provoking article about the influence that Reality TV has had on the international tourist industry and, I must admit, I’m intrigued. In the February issue of Travel + Leisure Chris Norris and Nikki Goldstein explore the aftermath of tourism booms in locales that have been visited by casts of the 4 shows listed above. According to Norris and Goldstein, this phenomenon of American travel trends to media-publicized destinations is no new thing, pointing out that, “fifty years ago, the media’s archetypal American abroad – say, a fedora-topped Jimmy Stewart squiring Doris Day through Marrakesh- inspired adventurous viewers to go and see Morocco for themselves.” But while Stewart and Day were portraying fictional characters, todays’ “media archetypal American abroad” is, seemingly, a real person thus making the destinations visited that much more attainable.
With the possible exception of The Jersey Shore‘s much publicized trip to Florence which yielded only a minor tourism bump (probably due to the fact that Florence was already a major tourist destination), Kim Kardashian’s trip to Bora-Bora, the Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s trip to the Dominican Republic and The Bachelor‘s trip to South Africa yielded notable tourist bumps.
The days following the airing of The Bachelor were the busiest ever on the southafrica.net tourism website – surpassing even the two weeks of the World Cup, according to South African Tourism. The show’s climactic “rose ceremony,” in which Womack proposed to the final, lucky lady, took place at the Tinga Legends Lodge, on the Lion Sands Private Game Reserve. The South African tourism website offered Bachelor-themed packages, and within two weeks more than 200 people had booked trips to stay at Lion Sands, according to Robert More, Tinga’s co-0wner.
The producers of these shows consistently seek out exotic, luxurious, beautiful yet oftentimes undiscovered locations for their destination episodes, thus familiarizing millions of viewers to otherwise little known spots. “Sites in South Africa, Tahiti, New Zealand, and even New Guinea have reported huge surges in tourists from the United States after visits by reality-TV shows, some almost literally putting these destinations onto the map of America’s consciousness.” While Anthony Bourdain does the same thing with his Travel Channel show Anthony Bourtain: No Reservations, he attracts an entirely different audience with his gritty and witty cultural immersion. Viewers may find a group of Real Housewives dining luxuriously at a five start restaurant in Fez while ,down the street, Anthony Bordain is eating from a street cart and chatting up the locals.
As an American who uses every extra penny she has to book a trip and who regularly tears out articles from travel magazines and keeps them in a folder labeled “SOMEDAY,” I can absolutely relate to being inspired by the media to travel somewhere specific. Whether Americans are traveling to South Africa because that’s where one season of The Bachelor wrapped or because they’ve always wanted to go on a game drive is irrelevant. The point is that they are buying a ticket, booking a hotel and seeing the world!