Tourism in the Movies

As a tourism professional I’m always looking for good movies that feature the travel industry…and when I find one I’ll let you know. In the meantime I’ve put together this list of some some of the most notable ones I could think of.

I mean, I love my industry, but I think if you compare travel industry movies to movies of other professionals like astronauts, football players, hired killers or goblin kings that it’s pretty hard to compete at the box office.

And by travel industry movies, I don’t mean like just a vacation film, I mean one where there’s a tour group, travel agent, destination marketing, guided tour, hotel rooms or some other type of actual travel product featured.

Ok, here goes nothin’. Don’t get too excited. These movies are bad and I ran out of jokes three blogs ago.

If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium


This is really in a league of its own as a travel industry film. I mean, the whole film is about a tour group on a motorcoach tour of Europe. “Worldwind Tours #225” is an 18-day trip to nine different countries. If they really existed I would suggest Worldwind add some California product with a night or two in Sacramento (America’s Farm to Fork Capital).

Anyhow, this movie gives a glimpse into the life of a dashing young tour leader and all the predictable road trip jokes that go along with “crazy” tourist. It’s actually pretty entertaining. Way better than the 1980s made-for-tv sequel that added a totally unnecessary circus -related kidnapping plot.


Blue Hawaii


Blue Hawaii is by far the best of the three god-awful Elvis movies that take place in Hawaii. Don’t get suckered in to “Girls, Girls, Girls” or “Paradise: Hawaiian Style.” This is the only one that matters.

The plot is pretty simple: Elvis’ family owns the biggest pineapple farm in all of Hawaii, but instead of inheriting the family business and being a billionaire, he would rather be a tour guide….for high school girls and their super-hot teacher. He drives them around in a convertible, sings songs about Hawaii, goes surfing, gets in a bar fight, wears a captain hat, plays a ukulele and teaches people to salt their pineapples for extra flavor.

As an added bonus the best two actors in the history of the world – Angela Lansbury (to whom this blog owes a huge debt) and Floyd the barber from the Andy Griffith Show – also appear.

Oh, and special shout-out to all you UB40 fans. This is where the song “Can’t Help Falling in Love” came from.


Grand Budapest Hotel


This is easily the best movie on this list and it’s all about a hotel concierge and bellboy. I can’t even make fun of it, so I’ll just use this space to thank Wes Anderson for making this movie, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom and, of course, the nearly perfect Rushmore. The other ones he made are good too, but these ones are my favorites.


Four Rooms


There was a special time in the 90s when the whole world was Quentin Tarantino crazy. Everybody had just seen Pulp Fiction and was scrambling to watch Reservoir Dogs so they could pretend they had seen it when it came out. The Tarantino name starting popping up everywhere. One place it popped up was in this little hotel movie starring Tim Roth as a bellhop. It’s really four mini-movies each directed by a different director. The only good ones are the Robert Rodriguez one where the little kids smoke cigarettes and wreak havoc and the Tarantino one which updates the old Roald Dahl story involving a bet, a Zippo lighter, a meat cleaver and and a pinky finger.

It’s actually not as good as you’d hope, but it’s probably required viewing for bellhops. Oh and Madonna is in there somewhere if that’s your thing.


High Spirits


If you like Irish castles, ghosts, 80s movies and a heavy dose of Steve Gutenberg, then this is the film for you. It’s basically about a guy who owns a failing castle B&B and tries to drum up business by adding fake ghosts, but then – of course – real ghosts screw up that whole plan. You’d be surprised how often this happens in real life. Happened to me when I was ordering coffee this morning.

I like any movie with ghosts and a castle (e.g. Alyssa Milano’s version of the Canterville Ghost, the special 2-part Murder She Wrote, Nan’s Ghost, every episode of Scooby Doo ). Gutenberg is just a bonus here and there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes. Speaking of which….




I’ve never actually seen Titanic, but I can tell you what it’s about: It’s about 3 hours of your life that you’ll never get back. You are better off watching High Spirits twice.  And if you want to watch a bad James Cameron movie about an underwater ship, go with the Abyss. However, there is no doubt that Titanic is the most successful of all tourism industry movies. Think of the travel agents who sold people their Titanic vacation packages.

Fun Fact: I saw the the Big Lebowski in the theater twice when Titantic was dominating the box office.


Rick Steves’ European Christmas


This isn’t really a movie, but it’s still better than Titanic. It’s basically like every other episode of Rick Steves only in this one he’s wearing a scarf and around every corner there’s a new terrifying version Father Christmas that will haunt your dreams forever. Also, sledding!


Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory


Factory tours are a huge part of the tourism industry. We have the Jelly Belly factory just outside of Sacramento so we know a thing or two about how popular candy factories can be. However, we also have the Blue Diamond almond factory and they are kinda locked-up Wonka-style. I’d love to get a golden ticket to tour that place…and maybe some day it’ll happen….probably after Willy Blue Diamond reads this sweet blog.

Anyhow, this is also a great film and like 80% of it is literally a tour of a factory. That’s tourism right there, folks. True, tours like the Wonka Factory are pretty exclusive, but hey give your local destination marketing professional a call and maybe they can pull a few strings. Like, did you know I know a way to get you into Sutter’s Fort after hours? Sometimes you just gotta ask.

It’s a nearly perfect film that I love for its humor and the way all those lousy kids get what’s coming to them.

Let’s just not mention the Tim Burton remake of this. Burton needs to focus more on Beetljuices and Pee-Wees and leave the chocolate factories and ape planets alone.

Also, I should note that this is the third time a Roald Dahl story has been mentioned on this list (Mr. Fox, The finger story from Four Rooms, Wonka). I’d say that maybe Dahl should get some kind of tourism industry award, but I’ve heard he was also a horrible racist so maybe let’s hold off on that.


The Shining


Maybe this is a bit of stretch as a tourism industry movie, but I think we’ve all had hotel experiences like this, right? I don’t know how many times I’ve had to call the front desk to report an elevator full of blood.


Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style


In a desperate attempt to prolong the magic, this tv movie features the Saved by the Bell crew accepting jobs at one of the dumb character’s relative’s hotel in Hawaii. I’ve never seen it, but I’m guessing there are hijinx aplenty. I bet that one guy and the one girl probably have some romantic drama and Screech probably does something hilarious and whats-his-face wears a tank top and there is probably a big bad developer who wants to shut down their family-owned establishment, and then there’s a blah blah blah, and a misunderstanding and a beach volleyball game blah blah blah elevator full of blood and everything turns out ok and it was the best summer ever.

NOTE: This is just two years before Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Vegas and three years before Saved by the Bell: Showgirls.


Ok, that’s all I can think of for now. If you got some others, send’m my way.






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