Broom or bust: we're all mad about Harry

The box-office phenomenon may be over but Harry Potter-mania remains a massive money-spinner for those fortunate enough to be touched by the wand.

THE movies might have come to an end but that bespectacled adolescent wizard is barely getting started in a tourism sense.

A new Harry Potter attraction, The Making of Harry Potter, will open near London next year, adding significantly to the huge tourism dollars already generated by the book and movie series.

Illustration: Michael Mucci.
Illustration: Michael Mucci. 

Britain is laughing all the way to the tourism bank on the back of the massively successful movies, while across the Atlantic, crowds continue to flock to a Harry Potter theme park that opened in Florida last year.

Universal Studios does not release attendance figures for its parks but evidence points to huge numbers of visitors going through the gates of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

The Global Attractions Attendance Report, published by the Themed Entertainment Association, says Universal has "reaped the rewards" of its investment in the attraction, which includes rides, a recreation of Hogsmeade village and a full-sized model of the Hogwarts Express train.

"The remarkable success of Universal Studios' Wizarding World of Harry Potter lifted attendance at Universal's two parks in Orlando by more than 1.7 million visitors in 2010," the report says. The tourism manager of Coonamble Shire in NSW, Steve Baldwin, visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter over the Christmas holidays and says the crowds and queues were "outlandish".

"We were unable to use our mobile phone as the towers were overloaded and people were queuing for up to two hours simply to get into Ollivanders Wand Shop for souvenirs, and many more hours for a return pass to actually get into the Harry Potter area," Baldwin says.

"I heard staff saying every single day was the same and it had been that way since opening."

However, Baldwin says the queues were worth it: "It was fantastic and a faithful re-creation of the books and movies."

Warner Bros is aiming to open its British studio tour attraction, The Making of Harry Potter (wbstudiotour.co.uk), in the first half of next year, with tickets going on sale later this year.

Located about 30 kilometres north of London in Hertfordshire, it will be a three-hour, behind-the-scenes tour featuring authentic sets, costumes, props and special effects from all eight Harry Potter movies.

Full details are yet to be released but Warner Bros has said visitors will be able to walk onto some of the most memorable sets from the films, including the great hall and Dumbledore's office.

The great hall set was built in 2000 for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and features a solid stone floor, while Dumbledore's office was built for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and features several paintings commissioned for the films.

Warner Bros says the tour will be "one of the most exciting and memorable visitor attractions anywhere in Europe", accommodated within a site covering about 80 hectares.

A spokeswoman for VisitBritain's Australian office, Sarah Styles, says that while it is not possible to quantify the value of "Harry Potter tourism", research has shown a very strong link between films and travel to Britain.

Just under half of potential visitors to Britain want to visit places they have seen in films or television. "Film tourism has been huge for us and Harry Potter has been a great example of that," Styles says.

"Whenever we put Harry Potter content on our website we get a high rate of click-throughs, it's very popular."

VisitBritain recently ran a Harry Potter competition on Facebook and Styles says the response from around the world showed how much people love all things Harry.

One of the most popular locations from the Harry Potter movies has been Alnwick Castle (www.alnwickcastle.com), in Northumberland, northern England. The castle featured as "Hogwarts" in the first two films and will be familiar to many as the location of the broomstick-flying lessons.

A spokeswoman for the castle says there has been a significant increase in visitation from all over the world since the movies were released.

"It provided a whole new appeal to different audiences who may not have visited the castle before," she says.

"Before Harry Potter, the parents brought the children to the castle.

"After Harry Potter, the children brought the parents."

Wizard tours

Harry Potter fans don't have to wait until next year to get their fix, with many British Harry Potter tours. VisitBritain (visitbritain.com) also has a list of its top 10 Harry Potter locations, such as Alnwick Castle and Oxford's Bodleian Library. In London, walking tours are run by Muggle Tours (muggletours.co.uk), London Walks (walks.com) and Celebrity Planet (thecelebrityplanet.com), while black taxi tours are operated by Premium Tours (premiumtours.co.uk). Brit Movie Tours (britmovietours.com) has a two-day tour taking in locations around England.

jane@janeefraser.com.au

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