From the post-apocalyptic bleakness of the TV show “The Last of Us” to the glamorous European destinations in the sprawling James Bond movie franchise, one source of travel inspiration is taking on fresh appeal as pandemic restrictions recede: the fictional worlds of film and television.
“Set-jetting” — a play on “jet-setting” — will, travel analysts say, heavily influence the choice of destinations this year. With search traffic surging for the filming locations of the most popular streamed movies and television shows, that entertainment is expected to overtake social media as the top source of inspiration for travelers, according to research from online travel companies like Expedia.
In response, destinations, tour operators and even film and TV production companies are striving to offer ever more experiential ways for people to engage with their favorite fictional worlds. The government of Alberta, Canada, is even assembling a map of filming locations for “The Last of Us” devotees to follow on a road trip. (The series was shot in the province.)
But perhaps none are so immersive — and extravagant — as a new series of James Bond-themed private tours. They include a high-speed race down the River Thames in the same Sunseeker Superhawk 34 speedboat used in “The World Is Not Enough”; a sail on a vintage yacht along the Côte d’Azur to the Casino de Monte-Carlo, featured in “GoldenEye”; and a helicopter ride above the snow-capped Ötztal Alps in Austria, where “Spectre” was filmed, accompanied by the special effects veteran Chris Corbould.
People are as drawn to the places in the movies as they are to the plots, said Tom Marchant, a co-founder of Black Tomato, a travel company based in New York and London that was enlisted by the Bond movie producer, EON Productions, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first Bond film, “Dr. No.”
The goal of the tours, Mr. Marchant said, was “unparalleled” immersion into the 007 world. The cost? From $18,500 per person for a five-night experience, and from $73,500 per person for the full 12-day experience.
‘Transported to the set’
For many travelers, the high price of immersion is worth it. Inspired by the bucolic hills and lofty Alps in “The Sound of Music,” the 1965 musical film starring Julie Andrews, Natalie McDonald, an entrepreneur in New York, was willing to pay about 10,500 pounds, or about $12,900, for Black Tomato to plan a cross-country railway trip in Switzerland in 2019 with her daughter, then 12.
“It quite literally felt like we were transported to the set,” she said, adding that memories of the journey lingered long after they returned home. “In so many ways it extends the trip in our subconscious.”
That desire to be immersed in fictional worlds has also been noted by streaming companies like Netflix, which is expanding its slate of interactive (and much more affordable) events. From Regency-era balls in cities like New York to uncovering a secret government lab at a Los Angeles event, attendees are given the opportunity to dress up and engage with plotlines of shows like “Bridgerton” (from $59 a person) and “Stranger Things” (from $39 for an adult).
“We want people to leave feeling like they really got to experience this ‘hero’ moment within a world or a story that they’ve loved,” said Josh Simon, the vice president for consumer products at Netflix. Some three million people have attended such immersive events in 17 cities, and the company is planning more experiences linked to series like “Squid Game.”
Other operators are paying attention. The Four Seasons in Cap-Ferrat, the location of a scene in the Netflix series “Emily in Paris,” is offering a Girls Trip on the French Riviera package (rates vary, but can run at least $2,000 for a two-person room). Fans of the series “The Last of Us” are flocking to the show’s locations in Alberta, despite the show’s pessimistic premise of a world inhabited by survivors of a global pandemic.
Among the most obvious winners of screen tourism this year, travel advisers say, is the cliffside town of Taormina, Sicily, where the second season of the HBO show “The White Lotus” takes place. One $7,500 weeklong “White Lotus” tour was so in demand that it sold out months in advance, according to Quiiky Travel, a tour operator catering to L.G.B.T.Q. clients.
Web traffic for the Four Seasons San Domenico Palace, the show’s location, surged more than 60 percent after the first episodes aired, and bookings are set to be stronger this year compared to last year, the hotel said.
“‘The White Lotus’ worked as a business accelerator for us,” said Lorenzo Maraviglia, the hotel’s general manager, adding that the sudden interest after the show was something he had never witnessed before. Like their fictional counterparts, guests at the hotel can visit local wineries, cruise on a Vespa around the Sicilian streets and sip an aperitivo in its restaurant (though the underlying tensions are not guaranteed).
Bow ties and bubbly
As they wait to learn who will replace the actor Daniel Craig, whose last appearance as James Bond was in 2021’s “No Time to Die,” Bond superfans willing to pay for one of Black Tomato’s 60 custom tours will have the opportunity to peruse Bond costumes and props, with tales from the Bond archive director, Meg Simmonds, in London. If they’re looking for an adrenaline rush, they can learn fight sequences with Lee Morrison, a stunt coordinator and former stunt double for Daniel Craig, also in London. Or they can listen to insider tales over a Parisian dinner with Carole Ashby, the British actress who appeared in “Octopussy” and “A View to Kill.”
They will also be able to indulge in the brands featured in the Bond world, including an Aston Martin workshop (the spy’s car of choice) in Millbrook, England, and a private tour of the Bollinger vineyards (the spy’s Champagne of choice) in the village of Ay, France.
And then there is the tour’s most lavish offering: the 12-night journey called “The Assignment,” from $73,500 per person, which begins in London and takes travelers on a five-location European tour ending in Venice. A narrative component is potentially in development, Mr. Marchant said, so attendees can live out a Bond plot of their own.
For Bond fans on a budget, there are other options. Rob Woodford, a former taxi driver in Britain who runs tours based on popular film and television series, is anticipating a busy year ahead. His James Bond-themed tours try to include an element from most of the 25 films in the series. This year, he is thinking of teaming up with a speedboat company to recreate the breathless scene from “The World Is Not Enough.”
“Wouldn’t that be a good idea — to recreate Pierce Brosnan shooting down the River Thames?” he said, adding: “You’ve got to reinvent yourself a bit.”