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Middlesex University Dubai Puts the Spotlight on Film and Tourism


DUBAI: The Dubai International Film Festival has evolved into one of the top film festivals worldwide for filmmakers and travellers alike. It attracts celebrities and filmmakers from Hollywood and Bollywood, ‘film tourists’, and supporters of the thriving film and cultural arts scene.  In order to examine the intersection between Film and Tourism more deeply, a special panel was convened recently at Middlesex University Dubai. The innovative special panel titled “Creating Tourism via Film, TV and Pop Culture,” brought together experts from the worlds of entertainment, tourism and academia to discuss the role of filmmaking in global tourism.   

The panel was introduced by Professor Sue Beeton (William Angliss Institute, Australia), organizer of the special panel and one of the world’s leading experts on Film-Induced Tourism,  explained the rationale for the panel: “One major issue that has vexed me for some time is that little research integrates the various aspects of the complex area of film-induced tourism. In fact, most of the research into film-induced tourism and related topics remains divorced from the film industry itself, so this panel was set up to bring together those involved in film-making, film festivals, tourism and popular culture. By having speakers who are also from around the world (Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, Italy and Japan) international perspectives were also presented.”

The film panel, included locally-based film producer Daniela Tully (The Help, Sea Shadow, Djinn, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), who also teaches on the Film programme at Middlesex University, discussed place-based filmmaking challenges including shooting Colombia for Cuba and Canada for New York in her recent work, and who said of the panel: “The panel was equally beneficial for the tourism as well as the film industry. The conversation between the two industries should be built up so that both sides understand and keep revising the needs under changing requirements, and will hence be able to generate the films that create and support a viable film-induced tourism; that, in return and going forward, will increase the value for returning film productions as well.” 

James Dawson, the Chief Executive with New Zealand’s Hamilton and Waikato Tourism, explored the vital role played by The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in New Zeland’s tourism industry, and reflects that “To assist and develop successful film tourism, regions and destinations need to work collaboratively with film-makers and national tourism organisations to leverage the ongoing marketing opportunities… The panel was an excellent opportunity to bring together the different stakeholders and perspectives to drive economic and destination marketing benefits for everyone.”

Prof. Takayoshi Yamamura, an expert on Contents Tourism from Hokkaido University in Japan, spoke about the importance of anime to Japanese tourism, and says: “The panel has greatly contributed to international and interdisciplinary understandings of film-induced tourism related issues through the dialogue between academics and practitioners… (it) has reviewed the issues and future challenges related to the film-induced tourism and successfully created the international network for future dialogue (including paper presentations)… (and it) has clarified the role and problems of main actors of film-induced tourism (mainly creators, DMO and local community) for developing sustainable tourism destination marketing.

Fellow panellist Michelangelo Messina, Director of the Ischia Film Festival, noted that “It was an extraordinary experience that has enriched my knowledge through the experiences of others’ work.”

A roundtable discussion was moderated by Dr. David Tully, Head of the Film Programme at Middlesex Dubai and screenwriter of the upcoming film The Sandman, starring rock legend Iggy Pop. For Tully, “the value of an event like this is to highlight how vital location is to filmmaking, and how much both sides – the locale and the filmmakers – can benefit from a better understanding of each other’s needs.”

The panel was held as part of the Fourth Travel and Tourism Research Association conference hosted at Middlesex University and also featured the launch of the second edition of Prof. Beeton’s landmark book Film-Induced Tourism, the first research monograph published on the topic of the relationship between movies, TV and tourism. Additionally, Mr. Gerald Lawless, Head of Tourism and Hospitality at Dubai Holding and Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council gave a keynote talk on The Rewarding Union of Travel & Tourism and Cinematography, which highlighted the interrelationship between tourism and cinematography, particularly for Dubai and the UAE.

As Prof. Beeton commented, “Holding the event in Dubai, a major travel hub, gave many new people the opportunity to participate. The level of research presented was very high and varied from travel writing and the use of drones in research through to the study of soundscapes and innovation. Many of those participating have extended their professional links, and we look forward to seeing the outcome of new collaborations at our next conference in Hong Kong.” 

Dr. Cody Morris Paris, Deputy Director of Middlesex University Dubai, noted that “For Middlesex University, this panel provided an opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration between faculty, researchers, and students from our exceptional tourism and film programmes. Students from both the BA Honours International Tourism Management and BA Honours Film programmes volunteered at the event.”  Middlesex University Dubai has also launched the first MSc International Tourism Management programme in the UAE, which is open for students to join starting Sept 2017. “Our new MSc International Tourism Programme will provide critically exploring and understanding the importance and interrelationship between tourism and the creative industries, special events, and visitor attractions.”

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