Breaking Bad’s premier on Sunday was the TV event of the year. The final eight episodes of the highly-rated and deeply loved series will conclude what is turning out to be a modern-day Greek tragedy about the character Walter White.
However, the show’s ending won’t stop interest in its setting: Albuquerque, New Mexico. Already, there are bus tours of the show’s popular locations, a store that sells blue-colored rock candy and specialized beers named after White.
It’s safe to say that the show has been a boon to Albuquerque’s economy. In fact, New Mexico is a favorite destination for TV shows and films, thanks to a generous tax break.
“The state became a hotbed for film production, especially under the administration of former Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, but filming dropped off two years ago when newly elected Republican Gov. Susana Martinez called for a big cut in the state’s film rebate program,” Richard Verrier reported for the Los Angeles Times. “Martinez then changed course and recently approved legislation that increased the state’s rebate to 30 percent from 25 percent for TV series shooting at least six episodes in the state. The new incentive was dubbed ‘The Breaking Bad Bill’ in recognition of the series’ contributions to New Mexico.”
Film and TV productions are not only good for a destination’s economy, they are also good for drawing tourists.
“Film tourism…can be an effective marketing tool for destinations that lack financial backing for strong advertising campaigns, especially at a time of economic downturn,” wrote Simon Hudson, Youcheng Wang and Sergio Moreno Gil in their academic study, “The Influence of a Film on Destination Image and the Desire to Travel: A Cross-Cultural Comparison.”
In the paper, Hudson et al. show how a TV show or movie increases the desire in viewers to visit a location. Furthermore, destination marketing organizations who take advantage of the free marketing a film offers see a noticeable increase in tourism revenue. The researchers present several examples of destinations taking advantage of movie tie-ins: La Dolce Vida (Rome), Before Sunrise (Vienna) and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (New Zealand).
“The exposure a film gives a city, province or country is an advertisement viewed by potentially millions of people, an audience that could not be reached through specifically targeted tourism promotions,” the researchers wrote.
Most often, tourism promotions focus on a destination’s positive aspects. However, Breaking Bad’s story line features meth and the criminal element that goes hand-in-hand with the drug, which any destination would want to steer clear of. Not so with the Albuquerque CVB. It includes a self-guided walking tour on its website, along with actively promoting the show in media releases and promotions.
“We are reaching a new potential visitor audience that may not have considered Albuquerque for vacation in the past through shows like Breaking Bad,” said Dale Lockett, president and CEO of the Albuquerque CVB.
Thanks to a fictional high school chemistry teacher turned criminal, Albuquerque is seeing a positive real-life economic impact. Now, how are other destination organizations taking advantage of film and TV productions?