What do Taylor Swift, Game of Thrones and Formula 1 all have in common? Besides being at the core of some of the most devoted fandoms in the world, they’re also the beginning of great opportunity for hoteliers worldwide. Pop culture is stronger than ever before, and globalisation is in full force. Fans everywhere are eager to see their favourites in front of their very eyes.

While we predicted TV tourism as a travel trend already in 2023, 2024 has brought event tourism in all its might. In this article, we’re looking at how hoteliers can make the best of what pop culture has to offer. From understanding what brings the fans to your doorstep and how to attract them with appropriate messaging.

Fan of a Formula 1 driven attending a race.
Though loved by fans for decades, Formula 1 has recently skyrocketed in popularity, with many fans travelling across continents to attend races.

What are fan and event tourism?

Fan tourism is when fans of a TV show, movie, book, or other pop culture phenomenon visit locations related to their favourite content. These can be filming sites, sets or even museums. Event tourism revolves around travelling to attend specific events such as festivals, concerts, sports games, or conventions. Both types of tourism are driven by the excitement and passion of fans who want to experience and connect with their interests in real life. Together, they’re a great opportunity to attract passionate travellers looking for immersive experiences.

Studies have long shown that pop culture has a significant influence on tourism demand. From TV shows to movies and music, fans everywhere are keen to travel to get a glimpse of their passion. This can be explained by herding behaviour, which is essentially when people join groups and follow the actions of others. This type of behaviour is especially evident in the context of pop culture tourism, where fans are drawn to specific destinations because they are popular within their social groups or fan communities.

For hoteliers, this translates into an immense opportunity to take advantage of not just concerts, festivals and sports events, but also movies and TV series. As a plus, capitalising on pop culture and events can lead to higher revenues for local businesses, job creation, and the development of the local tourism infrastructure.

Fans attending a concert.
Concerts are amongst the most popular reasons for fan and event tourism.

Who can take advantage of fan and event tourism?

Attracting international travellers

If your city is amongst the stops on the ‘Eras Tour’, or blessed (or cursed) to host a Formula 1 race, congratulations. You’ve got endless opportunities to attract new travellers and bond with them over what they’re passionate about.

Fan tourists have a deep emotional and cultural engagement with the location or theme. They travel not just to see, but to experience and connect with the essence of their interest. Event tourists, in contrast, focus on the event experience itself. They are driven by the thrill of attending concerts, sports games, conventions, and other large gatherings.

More unique but equally attractive to fans are TV sets. For example, successful TV series and movies have skyrocketed the popularity of certain travel destinations. Think Matamata, New Zealand for authentic Lord of the Rings hobbit houses, the iconic Royal Crescent in Bath featured in Bridgerton, or the whole town of Covington, Georgia (or as you may know it, Mystic Falls from The Vampire Diaries). And of course, the locations from HBO’s White Lotus.

A house covered in grass from a popular movie series
Matamata, New Zealand is home to the Hobbit houses from the fantasy trilogy ‘Lord Of The Rings’

Local travel for events

Don’t fret if your hotel is not located in a city that attracts the likes of Max Verstappen or the Netflix filming crew. It’s not just massive events that attract travellers. While international travellers are indeed the perfect candidates for longer hotel stays, there is also an opportunity to upsell to local travellers. For example, in the U.K., 69 million visits were made to attend a live football match in 2019. Another 45 million watched other sports events, and 42 million attended a live music concert or festival. Other popular events include arts and cultural festivals, outdoor fairs, food and local produce events, as well as outdoor exhibitions.

Indeed, international travel might be more likely for fans of world-renowned musicians or athletes. However, local travel is likely for concerts, festivals and sports events. This is a great opportunity for hoteliers to help these travellers turn a day trip into a fun-filled weekend away or midweek escape. A growing number of travel brands are already turning to sporting events to upsell and market their services. They find that fans visiting a city for sporting events are also keen to tick off bucket list items and the city’s major attractions.

As for demographics, younger generations are particularly keen to travel to see their favourites. 30% of millennial and Gen Z travellers said they were planning to make a trip to attend concerts, sporting events, or other cultural experiences in the coming year.

Fan standing up at a football match having travelled through event tourism.
Football teams have particularly devoted fan bases, with many fans travelling often to see their favourite teams’ matches.

Customising services and packages

To cater to these diverse travellers, hotels need to offer customised services and packages that enhance their experience. For fan tourists, consider creating themed experiences such as themed meals or even rooms. Consider partnering with local guides to offer guided tours to nearby locations relevant to their fandom. For instance, hotels near filming locations can offer tours or themed nights that immerse fans in the world of their favourite shows or movies.

Event tourists, on the other hand, would appreciate amenities tailored to their event schedules. Offering flexible check-in and check-out times can accommodate those attending late-night concerts or early-morning sports events. On top of that, providing transport services to and from the event, and having dedicated quiet zones for guests who need to rest and recharge can make their stay significantly better.

Dining Hall in Christ Church College, Oxford.
The dining hall in Christ Church College, Oxford was the inspiration for the Great Hall in Harry Potter.

Marketing strategies: scarcity and engagement

Effective marketing is crucial to attract these tourists. Leveraging the emotional connection fan tourists have with their interests can be powerful. Hotels can create targeted marketing campaigns that highlight these connections. Also, you can use social media to engage with fan communities and promote themed packages or events. Fans like to share their travel experiences on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, which drives the popularity of some locations even further. Use these platforms to connect with them.

For event tourists, creating a sense of urgency through scarcity messaging can drive bookings. Real-time updates on room availability and last-minute deals can be particularly effective. Event tourists often make travel decisions based on the timing and popularity of events. As a result, emphasising the limited availability of rooms can prompt quicker bookings.

Implementing real-time updates on your website and booking platforms is essential. For example, integrating a message that shows how many rooms are left can encourage immediate action. Also, sending out timely emails or push notifications about limited-time offers or dwindling availability can reach potential undecided guests.

Messaging plays a key role in scarcity marketing. Phrases like “Events in the city are making rooms sell out quickly—book before they run out” can be very effective. You can also use countdown timers for special deals, highlighting phrases such as “Only 5 rooms left at this price!” or “Offer ends in 24 hours!” to create a sense of urgency.

Additionally, consider implementing a waitlist feature for fully booked dates. This will not only show potential guests that demand is high but also provide an opportunity to capture their interest for future stays. Offering exclusive deals to waitlisted individuals if rooms become available can turn potential losses into bookings.

Scarcity messaging which can be a powerful tools for hoteliers looking to attract event tourism.
Scarcity messaging can be very powerful in convincing undecided guests.

Long-term benefits and community building

Investing in fan and event tourism can yield long-term benefits. Creating loyalty programmes that reward returning visitors can foster a sense of community and encourage repeat business.

Plus, think about building an online community through forums or social media groups. Here, past visitors can share their experiences and stay updated on upcoming events and promotions. This can strengthen the hotel’s brand and create a loyal customer base.

Harnessing event tourism and building lasting connections with passionate travellers

Embracing the excitement and passion of fan and event tourism offers a unique opportunity for hoteliers to create memorable experiences and forge lasting connections with their guests. By understanding what motivates these travellers and tailoring your offerings to meet their needs, you can transform your hotel into a vital part of their journey.

Now is the time for hoteliers to seize the opportunities presented by fan and event tourism. Aligning your services with the passions of your guests ensures your hotel becomes a beloved destination, celebrated by travellers from near and far.

Keen to see how you can install scarcity messaging on your website? Reach out to us at welcome@hotelchamp.com or through live chat.

May 15, 2024
Trends and Insights
Written by
Hotelchamp Team