The power of film production on local economies, trade, and tourism

Compiled by Colibrí Effect

It is well known that there is a direct link between film and television production and the economic growth of a region or country. There is ample empirical data to prove the power of film production on local economies, trade, and tourism.  

Here we look at a few of the better-known examples from premium and streaming providers (as is proposed for the Banana project): The White Lotus, Narcos, Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones.  We also present information from the State of Georgia (United States) on the return they receive from film and television production.

Table of Contents

The White Lotus

Locations: Hawaii, Sicily (Thailand upcoming)

“The ‘White Lotus’ effect is real,” Henderson said, referring to the popular HBO series that portrays luxury travel in Hawaii and Sicily, Italy.

“Pretty much anytime you put a location in a film or a popular TV series, it’s going to become really popular,” he explained. “In fact, it’s tough to even get a hotel room sometimes now in Sicily.” [§]

“The White Lotus” helped get hundreds of people to work, including hotel employees, caterers, vehicle companies, about 100 local crew members, and others. He said the production spent almost $22 million, which was infused into the local economy.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism said that film/TV production spending generates substantial additional output, earnings, and jobs for Hawaii residents.

Also, additional production spending generates more direct and indirect spending in the state, according to the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization. [§]

As high-profile international productions continue to flock to Italy, its film commissions have joined forces, leaving producers’ old divide-and-conquer playbook in the dust.

“We believe that the success of one member is the success of all members,” says Cristina Priarone, president of the Italian Film Commissions Association. The organization was created — alongside the Italy for Movies website, with a searchable database — to help potential collaborators easily access information about available regional funds, and other advantages offered by different regions.

“This network has increased Italy’s talent to attract productions, welcome them at the highest level, and easily move their sets from one region to another,” adds Toscana Film Commission’s Stefania Ippoliti.

“These kinds of productions give our country a promotional boost, but our objective is to make sure this wave continues. And lasts! We are working hard, but it’s important to work harder, even when they are not here,” adds Priarone, also a general manager at Roma Lazio Film Commission.

“There has been a growth of international productions in Italy. However, we are aware that in the audiovisual market, as in all markets, there is a natural tendency to always look for … the new trendy location,” Parente says. “In response to such a trend, in addition to preserving the uniqueness of our country, our long-term strategy can only be to continue investing in what we consider our biggest assets, such as our authors and our stories.” [§]

Google searches for Sicily, which served as the series’ backdrop, have spiked since the show’s second season kicked off at the end of October, with interest holding steady after the show’s finale aired on Dec. 11.

According to Google Trends data, U.S. searches for Sicily roughly doubled between late October and early December. Searches for Sicilian destinations like Taormina and Noto — both of which were prominently featured in the series — have also been on the upswing in recent weeks. [§]


Locations: Colombia, Mexico

‘Narcos’ is a good example of Colombia’s ‘orange economy’ development. For example, we came across something that had an impact on me; they told me: ‘Look, a season of the series ‘Narcos’ — whether you like the series or not, that is not the discussion — managed to book 14,000 hotel nights’. That’s only one season. And they told me: ‘We are looking for make-up artists for film and television, with the current standards they are paid $5,000 a week, and we don’t have them in Colombia’.

– Colombian President Ivan Duque [§]

The Lord of the Rings

Location: New Zealand

The Lord of the Rings brought in some $7 billion dollars of revenue to the New Zealand economy on just tourism [§]:

  • In 2019, 18 percent of people who visited New Zealand for a holiday were initially interested in New Zealand as a destination due to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.
  • For nine percent of those, it helped them seriously consider New Zealand as a holiday destination, and we know in the same year 33 percent of all people that visited New Zealand for a holiday visited a film location.

Game of Thrones

Locations: Croatia, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Morocco, Scotland, Spain

Examples of regional benefits

Game of Thrones benefits Ireland:

  • “In the five years since Game of Thrones began filming in the region, the biggest TV production in Europe has become big news to the Northern Irish economy. The first four seasons brought a direct economic benefit of £82m, according to the local assembly, including wages for cast and crew, hotels, services, and tourism, and has created the equivalent of more than 900 full-time and 5,700 part-time jobs in a region of fewer than 2 million people.” [§]

Game of Thrones benefits Croatia:

  • “However, it’s not just tourism that is having a large impact on the Croatian economy. The sets in Game of Thrones are massive and it is a large production, which means that there needs to be a large crew to support it. Every time they come to film; the local area experiences an influx of jobs as the show is creating them. People are brought on board as translators, production assistants, local fixers, and a variety of other jobs. This in turn also has a large financial impact on the economy of Croatia.” [§]

Game of Thrones benefits one town in Spain:

  • “In addition, for the local economies of various towns in Spain, it means a huge shot in the arm, with the estimated economic effect of the new episodes having been filmed in this country exceeding 1,000 million euros in the case of the Castellón coastal town of Peñíscola.” [§]

Other Key Findings

  • Productions spend money on employees, equipment, lodging, and location fees among other things during filming. Spending that occurs locally has an impact on the economy, earning tax revenues, and the workforce of the locations it chooses to film in.
  • When a movie or television show shoots on location, it brings jobs, revenue, and related infrastructure development, providing an immediate boost to the local economy. Our industry pays out $21 billion per year to more than 260,000 businesses in cities and small towns across the country—and the industry itself is comprised of more than 122,000 businesses, 92 percent of which employ fewer than 10 people. As much as $250,000 can be injected into local economies per day when a film shoots on location. In some cases, popular films and television shows can also boost tourism. [§]
  • “The role of Film Commissions is also crucial. They should promote specific destinations as locations for movies, documentaries, and TV Series, select those places (like beautiful landscapes, historical places or buildings, interesting pieces of architecture or art) to be used in TV or film productions, and also offer monetary and technical support before, during and after the broadcasting. GoT is certainly the perfect example of it: it is an international production with worldwide success, and, in some cases, its shooting locations have been used for several seasons, generating broader visibility for many years. Thus, DMOs and Film Commissions should operate to attract TV series, like GoT, to promote destinations.” [§]

Case Study

Top 10 Ways the Film Industry Benefits Georgia


  1. Jobs: No. 1 concern!
    • Tens of thousands are employed in film production in Georgia, with talent filling a diverse array of roles from accounting to animal wrangling.
    • Georgians might be surprised to learn how many home improvement and department stores, rental car companies, and hotels now have dedicated entertainment salespeople!
    • Resources like the Reel Production Crew database, available through the Georgia Film Office, allow industry professionals a quick search option for Georgia-based crew and support services by category, keyword, or location.
  2. Small businesses: Georgia’s TV and movie business is further fueled by thousands of small businesses – from landscaping and construction companies to caterers and hardware stores.
    • The six Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) member companies alone spend an average of $693 million at more than 11,000 vendors annually in Georgia—some of these vendors are film-related businesses, but thousands are not!
  3. Local revenue: Permitting fees, which vary by municipality, directly benefit cities and counties where production is occurring.
    • Communities in Georgia also indirectly receive additional tax revenue that is generated by small businesses supplying goods and services.
    • Behind the scenes, each county in the state has a Camera Ready Liaison who stands ready to assist with getting productions started locally.
  4. “Heads in beds:” That means visitors and hotel nights!
    • One movie may account for more than 25,000 room stays, and with an average of 350 projects located in the state every year, that’s a lot of “heads in beds.”
    • In March 2021, when “Gasoline Alley” was filmed in Tifton, the group’s stays created over $120,000 in hotel revenue alone. (Incidentally, this also helps local restaurants and other small businesses.)
  5. Real estate: Studio space and filming locations are in high demand – boosting the real estate market.
    • It’s not just the industrial market that can get in on the action and take a starring role in a set, either. You, your friend, your neighbor – even your parents – might rent out the property for productions, whether that be for on-location filming, production offices, or stage space.
    • Georgians can submit their property to be listed in the Reel Scout film and TV location database.
  6. Film tourism: When a movie or show is filmed in Georgia, visitors will travel to see the iconic spots their favorite characters inhabit.
    • Costumers, accountants, set dressers, and catering services on film productions all aid Georgia’s small businesses and bottom line – but the economic benefits from the state’s celebrated film and TV industry reach much farther!
    • From visiting Forrest Gump’s bench to seeing where Eleven (“Stranger Things,” anyone?) bought her waffles – fans take film tourism pilgrimages to Georgia, and they spend a lot of money while they’re here. (More “heads in beds,” more hospitality, more local retail, and charm!)
    • Want to visit your favorite projection location for your own first-hand look? Georgia’s tourism office Explore Georgia has ideas to inspire your next trip: Film Tours & Itineraries.
  7. Workforce retention: An active film industry helps Georgia retain its creative workforce.
    • With a wide range of film production curricula offered in the state, including courses at the Georgia Film Academy, new public and private college degrees, and even Georgia high school programs – Georgia’s talented graduates can find jobs in Showbiz up and down the line – right here!
  8. Lower income taxes: Anyone who pays Georgia income tax can lower the amount of state taxes they owe by buying film tax credits to use dollar for dollar against their tax liability.
    • And of course, the state’s already low taxes continue to make Georgia an attractive place for employees in any industry.
  9. Made in Georgia: Georgia-licensed films put Georgia’s diverse locations in the spotlight.
    • That familiar peach logo in the end-roll credits? It promotes Georgia as a film destination and puts Georgia on the map!
    • Having our unique and beautiful places on screens large and small helps attract decision-makers, bring visitors, and keep Georgia on minds worldwide!
  10. Supports the arts: Small businesses and the hospitality industry are not the only groups benefiting from filming in Georgia. Having productions in the state creates opportunities for artists in other fields to use their talents, including dancers, musicians, gamers, and more.

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Colibrí Effect nurtures creative projects and advises companies and governments on strategic business development between North and Central America.