I went to Haworth for the first and only time more than thirty years ago. This wasn’t a tourist visit, as there was some function or other going on. Not being a tourist, one felt out of place; not being Japanese, one was distinctly unusual for a visitor. Signs in the village were in Japanese.
Why was this, I asked. Japanese students came was the answer – in their droves. This was Brontë country, and the Brontës were required English reading in Japan. How much of the combined Brontë ouevre was studied I didn’t discover. Perhaps it had only been Wuthering Heights. In which case, Kate Bush may have offered additional inspiration – “Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy, I’ve come home, I’m so cold, Let me in your window.”
Literature, like films or TV shows, has its tourist potential. Anne Hathaway wasn’t known as a notable Elizabethan playwright, but she knew one who was. Stratford-upon-Avon thus has much to be grateful for – in a touristic sense – as do other places associated with Shakespeare.
There is, for instance, a nine-day tour – the Globe Theatre in London before heading off to Stratford, the Cotswolds and destinations that don’t have much to do with Shakespeare. A real Shakespeare tour, as in one captured in his works, would be on an entirely different scale. Start in Scotland, say, move on to Denmark and then go south to Verona and Venice.
Charles Dickens’ tours of London provide great scope. Peter Ackroyd, as far as I know, doesn’t have a tour, even if one has been written down. Ackroyd’s exploration of London in his books – Dickens and all – is unmatched. It is the very stuff of the city, its history, its darkness, and so therefore the stuff that any culture-craving tourist would crave. There again, Ackroyd isn’t as well known as Dickens. Shame, as he is a brilliant writer and novelist.
Being well known, being famous clearly offer advantages when it comes to tours or routes. In Spain, there are tours for Miguel de Cervantes, Shakespeare’s contemporary, though from what I can see, there is only a virtual one for Don Quixote. I daresay that other Spanish writers have tours, but once you get past Cervantes, assuming you even get as far as him, for many a foreign tourist, there would be a question. Félix Lope de Vega? Who?
There are only so many from literature whose names travel the globe and can offer an accompanying tour or location for tourist authorities to exploit to the maximum. In this regard, the cinema and TV have much broader appeal, especially if authors are, shall we say, from a more classical side of literature. It doesn’t matter if actors are particularly famous, though this can help, as it is more to do with the locations. Didn’t the Spanish first really hit on this idea? The Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns eventually gave birth to a theme park.
For Mallorca, the idea for location-based tourism has been around for years. It has become more of an idea since relevant authorities began to realise that here was an opportunity and stopped erecting obstacles to future opportunities by failing to pay comparatively small sums of grant to producers – as happened with Cloud Atlas (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry). It was paid, all 150,000 euros of it, after a couple of years of legal opinion and what have you.
Some time after Microsoft landed in Palma’s ParcBit (back in 2009), there was talk of a location map that was to be used for tourism promotion. I don’t know whatever happened to that, but the principle is being revived. It makes sense, given the fact that the island has become increasingly popular among producers. As importantly, the advantages lie with popular output, such as The Mallorca Files. The more highbrow, the less the potential.
Coming back to literature, there is a project called Walking on Words. I went to a presentation to launch this at Puerto Pollensa’s Hotel Illa d’Or. This would have been five, six years ago, I guess. The Illa d’Or has a literary connection through Agatha Christie, so it was a good place for a launch. But I wonder how successful this have ever been. There are seven routes, for which the names of certain authors will be familiar to a wide market, Christie being one of them. Then there are those who will not be – the Mallorcan writers.
There is now a different project. Emanating from ParcBit, it’s known as KulTours – tourist routes drawing from literature, film and TV. Combining the different media makes a lot of sense – more powerful, more educative, more cultural in the round. The website for this is due to be launched this month. Winter in Mallorca (George Sand) is one.
It remains to be seen what other routes there are for a project said to encourage the tourism that the Balearic government wants to promote.