Who’d’ve thunk that little Harry Potter would become so big? In case you missed it, last week marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which spawned six more bestselling books in the series, several spin-off novels, eight blockbuster movies, a play, its own line of edibles (butterbeer, chocolate frogs, every-flavour jelly beans – really, there are ones that even taste like vomit), and more promotional paraphernalia than a gaggle of wizards could conjure up in a wand waving contest. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, no less, is performing the scores of two of the movies in their entirety at concerts this summer and fall.
Then there’s tourism.
Fans venture to various locales that have been used as backdrops for the films. Alnwick Castle in northern England, though standing for 1,000 years and having played a pivotal part in the history of the UK, now lists its claim to fame as having been a set for Hogwarts Castle in the films. I’ve been to a bird sanctuary in Northern Ireland where the snowy owl that “played” Hedwig was trained. And there are countless more places, most notably Warner Bros. Studio Facilities outside of London, UK, where the films were made and which today welcomes throngs of visitors daily – despite the difficulty of access by public transit to the location and the need to book tickets well ahead of time – to see the actual sets where movie magic was made.
Surely it has not gone without notice that in the U.S. Universal Studios partnered with Potter author J.K. Rowling on two mega theme park projects in Orlando and Hollywood, respectively. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a section of Universal Orlando Resort, complete with a life-size Hogwarts and recreated Hogsmeade village, did much to change the theme park landscape in the destination, in part fuelling an attractions war that continues unabated to this day among Universal, Disney and SeaWorld.
Indeed, Universal execs report that attendance jumped 36 per cent when Wizarding World opened in 2010, prompting the theme park to follow up with a second Potter attraction, Diagon Alley, four years later. Moreover, with one located in Universal Studios and the other in the adjacent Islands of Adventure theme parks, the two were connected by the Hogwarts Express, creating an experiential bonanza for fans who are happy to purchase the two-park pass required to see both (and ride the train).
So popular are the Potter attractions that pre-opening visitors (from on-site hotels) create an early morning rush directly to the attractions when the gates open at 8 a.m.
In California, meanwhile, Universal Studios Hollywood has cast its Wizarding Word in a whole new light with the introduction of “The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle” – a dazzling light projection experience against the structure accompanied by a special musical arrangement created by Academy Award-winning composer John Williams based on his original scores composed for the film series. And at Christmas, the light show will take on a special yuletide theme.
What’s remarkable is that all of this has occurred in a mere 20 years; in fact, it’s hard to imagine to a world without Harry Potter, even when it comes to tourism.
And surely it will carry on, because there are still stories to be told, money to be made, marketing to be spun, but, mostly, because we continue show that we’re just wild about Harry.
This and That
- Travel Corporation Canada brand presidents Cris David and Brad Ford have swapped roles. David takes over as president of Lion World Travel, while Ford is now the new head of Insight Vacations in this country. Both are long-time members of the TravCorp team.
- A unique venue where state of the art design is fused into every element, including cuisine served by “Edenists,” is the latest feature of the Celebrity Edge cruise ship to be revealed. Spanning three decks at the aft of the ship with almost 7,000 sq. ft. of glass, Eden has more outward-facing glass than any other room at sea. The ship sets sail in December, 2018.
- Mega boy band the Backstreet Boys are back and will be performing at the Moon Palace Cancun on Dec. 29. Tickets start at US$89 for the performance at the 7,000-seat Moon Palace Arena. The resort’s winter entertainment line-up also includes The Illusionists – Live From Broadway, from Dec. 22 to Jan. 3.
- Count Saint John and Fredericton as Porter Airlines’ latest Atlantic Canada gateways with the introduction of service to the New Brunswick city this fall. Fredericton-Ottawa flights begin Sept. 12 while Saint John-Ottawa flights begin Sept. 21; both services will continue on to Toronto Billy Bishop. Corresponding Porter Escapes vacation packages will be announced soon.
- Sunwing will introduce Puerto Vallarta packages from two BC gateways next winter: Victoria and Abbottsford. The latter is the first venture for Sunwing from the city. The flights start Dec. 16 and Dec. 17 respectively running seasonally through mid April. Many hotel options are available.
- Tis the season update: The annual Skal Toronto Annual Golf Tournament goes Tues. Aug. 15 at Royal Woodbine by Pearson Airport with proceeds being donated to the Daily Bread Food Bank. Sponsors and players are invited, and you don’t have to be a Skal member. Fees are $150 for members, $190 for non-members. Go to – www.torontoskal.orgfor more.
Words of the Week!
“This represents a step backwards and a strong attack on the freedom of travel…”
- United Nations World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Taleb Rifai expressing “firm resentment” over the recently-announced decision by the United States government to restore travel restrictions with Cuba.
“My dad was an industry pioneer who worked to open new tourism markets in India and Africa. Something he instilled in me through his own experience is the belief that limiting travel does not work for its intended purpose of creating an adverse economic impact. It only serves to perpetuate an ‘us against them’ mentality, which is the exact opposite of the uniting effect that travel has the power to do. Exposure between people not only fosters understanding, but robs governments of the narrative that ‘those people are evil.’ “
- Matthew D. Upchurch, Chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, on the U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba
Hogwarts Castle at night at Universal Hollywood.