The White Lotus Effect

The White Lotus Effect

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How Popular Culture Shapes Travel and Financial Choices

If you're among the millions who watched the second season of The White Lotus and found yourself daydreaming about a Sicilian getaway, you're not alone. It’s called The White Lotus Effect, where TV shows become virtual travel guides, reshaping our vacation plans, impacting everything from destination choices to travel expenses. Let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon, provide real-life examples, and offer practical tips on how to make the most of your travel budget while still enjoying the destinations you've been dreaming of.

The White Lotus Effect Unveiled

The White Lotus Effect, named after the popular HBO series The White Lotus, refers to the influence of movies and TV shows on travel trends. It's the idea that when a location is featured in a film or television series, it becomes an instant magnet for tourists. Think of how Lord of the Rings made Hobbiton in Matamata a global destination. Each year it draws in more than 350,000 visitors.

The American Express 2023 Global Travel Trends Report showed 64% of respondents agree that they have been inspired to travel to a destination after seeing it featured on a TV show, news source, or movie. Even more said they’d travelled to places based on what they’d seen on social media. Just as the characters in The White Lotus found themselves drawn to the luxurious settings of Hawaii and Sicily, real-world travelers seek to recreate these on-screen experiences. The result is millions of tourists wanting to visit the same location, which pushes up prices as demand skyrockets.

Why Now?

Some of the rise in popularity of set-jetting can be traced to pandemic habits. As New Zealanders had to tend with more onerous restrictions than all countries bar one, we couldn’t travel and often binged hours of television. From our couches, dreaming ahead to when travel restrictions would be lifted, with an unused leisure budget, viewers started planning a trip where they could be the main character. Now that borders are back open, “set-jetting” is booming into one of the latest travel trends.

Add in the rise-and-rise of social media, especially seeing everyone else’s holiday snaps online, and you have a combination of reasons why this is taking hold now more than ever.

The Impact on Destination Choices

With tens of millions of viewers from around the world watching the same TV program, The White Lotus Effect means millions of people all want to visit the same place, causing a surge in demand. Consider Sicily, the Mediterranean Island located just off the bottom of the Italian mainland. After its became the set in The White Lotus, the island experienced an unprecedented increase in tourist interest. Hotels were booked out for months and prices went up.

Sicily isn't alone in feeling the White Lotus Effect's impact. European destinations have seen a significant boost in popularity. The popularity of TV shows like Game of Thrones saw enormous demand for European destinations soared after the show's success. The city of Dubrovnik in Croatia, the filming location for King’s Landing, became one of the hottest tourist locations in the world.

According to a study from the University of Zadar, Game of Thrones tourism brought $320 million into Croatia between 2013 and 2018. That is great for Croatia’s economy, but it also means over-tourism. For you as a traveler, that means a more expensive holiday and most likely, a less relaxing time. So how do you avoid getting caught up in the White Lotus Effect? First, let’s compare the price of two holidays.

Popular Destination Versus Lesser-known Gem

Imagine you're planning a summer vacation, and you have two options: a popular destination that's been featured in a recent hit series or a lesser-known gem that hasn't been on a hit TV show or movie for years.

Popular Destination: Hawaii with a 5 Star Hotel: NZ$2,018 per Night

The pull of Hawaii has never been stronger, thanks to The White Lotus. With its stunning beaches and warm weather, the islands are a must-visit for fans of the show. However, popularity comes at a price. As of writing, 5-star hotels in Hawaii average $2,018 per night, according to Google. Since the show, Hotel prices in Hawaii have surged. Some of the most iconic sites like Hana Highway and Waimea Bay are struggling to manage the influx of tourists.

Lesser-Known Gem: The Philippines with a 5 Star Hotel: NZ$164 per Night

Now, consider The Philippines, a country not as frequented by TV crews. As of writing, 5 star hotels around the country’s world famous White Beach averages $164 per night, according to Google. The country has breathtaking beaches, lush rainforests, and a rich cultural heritage, but it hasn't been featured in recent hit series like Hawaii. As a result, The Philippines remains relatively untouched by the full force of over-tourism. You can find more affordable accommodations and enjoy a quieter, more authentic holiday.

Make Your Dollar Go Further

While the pull of popular TV-inspired destinations is undeniable, you don't have to break the bank to explore new places. Here are some practical tips to make your travel dollar go further:

  1. Flexibility with Travel Dates: Being open to traveling during shoulder seasons or off-peak times can lead to substantial savings. Travel experts recommend taking holidays on the shoulder season. That is the period in between the peak and low seasons. This is prime time to enjoy great weather with better deals and fewer crowds.
  2. Explore Lesser-Known Countries: Instead of following the TV show crowd to a trendy destination, consider exploring countries that haven't recently been in the limelight. You might discover hidden gems and spend less while doing so.
  3. Research Old Films and Shows: If you're drawn to destinations that have been TV shows or movies, try watching older films with picturesque locations. You might discover an equally beautiful spot without the crowds and high prices.
  4. Stay Ahead: Keep ahead of the crowds and visit the filming locations of your favourite shows before they air on TV. White Lotus season three is set to take place in Thailand.
  5. Leverage Airpoints: If you have accumulated Airpoints, this is an excellent time to use them. These rewards can significantly reduce your travel expenses, and remember, they don’t accrue interest so you really shouldn’t let them build up too much.
  6. Consider Road Trips: Don't underestimate the appeal of a road trip. In many places rental cars are more affordable than ever, and you can explore national parks and off-the-beaten-path destinations without the crowds.

Travel Smarter and Fly for Free with Airpoints Dollars

Transform your everyday credit card spending into a ticket to cover the costs of your overseas flights. If you repay your credit card in full each month, an Airpoints credit card is a smart way to trim down your travel expenses. They could even cover the cost of your flights or give you free domestic and international travel insurance.

Airpoints credit card holders earn Airpoints Dollars with each purchase which can then be redeemed for various travel-related expenses, including flights, accommodation, and even rental cars. This strategy not only enhances your travel experiences but also helps you make the most of your credit card spending while jet-setting around the world, ultimately turning your everyday purchases into unforgettable travel adventures.

A warning on credit cards. If you're unsure whether you can pay off your credit card bill in full and on time, it is best to avoid using credit cards altogether. If you are charged interest on your credit card purchases you lose all benefits from gaining Airpoints.

The Bottomline: Be a Trend-Setter, Not a Trend-Follower

The White Lotus Effect is a testament to the powerful influence of popular culture on our travel decisions. While visiting iconic TV and movie locations is a fantastic idea, it’s likely there are millions of others who are thinking the same thing.

To travel smarter, it’s best not to follow the trends, but instead forge your own new trend! Visit lesser-known destinations, be flexible with your travel dates, and use credit card rewards to help pay for your trip. By exploring off-the-beaten-path places, you can create memorable travel experiences while saving thousands of dollars compared with those who book their holidays based off the latest TV show or social media post.

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