K-drama; influencing Asian tourism

Flinders tourism expert Dr Sean Kim is exploring the close relationships between tourism and popular culture.
Flinders tourism expert Dr Sean Kim is exploring the close relationships between tourism and popular culture.

The spin-offs from TV soapies for tourism will be explored as part of a new study by Flinders University and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

The three-year research project, funded by a HK$140,000 (AU$20,000) start-up grant from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, will analyse the impact of TV drama on the tourism industry by measuring an amalgam of concepts including production values, audience involvement, cultural proximity, celebrity involvement, and tourist behavior intention.

Flinders Senior Lecturer in Tourism Dr Sean Kim said film tourism is one of the fastest growing worldwide phenomena in the tourism arena, with a significant growth of film tourism literature and anecdotal evidence emerging over the past decade.

“Film tourism is an extension of virtual and imaginatively experiencing the representations of depicted places, through small or big screen, into actually experiencing the reality of the places themselves,” Dr Kim, based in the School of Humanities and Creative Arts, said.

“Audiences form a certain emotional attachment to the characters they see in film or TV, which is the main driver compelling people to visit these places,” he said.

“When audiences visit these locations they try to copy a particular scene they liked because they are so emotionally engaged with the characters and engrossed in their ‘lives’.”

The study will include a focus on the hit Korean TV drama, My Love from the Star, which ran for 20 episodes at the start of 2014, attracting 2.5 billion views online in mainland China – making it the most-watched program of the year.

“In Asia, Korean TV soaps are amazingly popular and that drives many Asian populations to Korea to see the film locations and walk in the shoes of the characters,” Dr Kim, a leading author in film tourism, said.

“In one scene from My Love from the Star, the main actress is shown eating fried chicken and drinking beer and this is thought to have led to a 70 to 125 per cent increase in the amount of sales in beer and chicken at Lotte Mart, a leading Korean discount store.

“It’s the same situation in Australia, lots of UK tourists come here to swim at Summer Bay (Home and Away) or drive down the fictional cul-de-sac of Ramsay Street (Neighbours).

“The whole media package, from the dramatised storylines to the fictitious but identifiable characters, makes people want to go there.”

Dr Sean Kim said the project will use a TV consumption model based on his seven years of research to measure film tourism, including a quantitative survey of 1,000 people from mainland China and Taiwan: “This will lead to providing or creating an exclusive model of TV drama consumption and its impact on film tourism.”

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