Need to attract tourism to town? Put a ‘White Lotus’ scene on your agenda

The HBO series is not just a television hit and an endless meme factory, but also a maker of tourist destinations. After filming in Hawaii and Sicily in its first two seasons, speculation is growing about where the new episodes will be set

The trailer for season two of 'The White Lotus.'
Armando Quesada Webb

In HBO’s latest hit series The White Lotus, the location is as important to the story as the drama that unfolds within. The first season was shot at the Four Seasons Resort Maui in Wailea, Hawaii, while the second, which finished airing on December 11, moved to the Four Seasons San Domenico Palace in Sicily. The White Lotus is a fictitious chain of exclusive resorts that serve as the perfect setting to show the whims, contradictions and ridiculousness of the upper classes who can afford a week’s vacation in such a place. But the fact that it is a cruel parody has not prevented a global race to become the venue for the third season.

Quebec City, in Canada, is for now the strongest campaigner, although after two seasons in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, show creator Mike White has hinted that for the third season they could be looking at Asia. Even so, the company has not yet offered official information about either the plot or potential locations.

Does a movie or TV shoot benefit the city where it is located? For Pedro Bravo, author of books on tourism, the answer is not clear. “For hotels, the benefit of doing business with HBO is evident,” he notes. For towns, it can also be beneficial in some cases. Bravo cites the example of Game of Thrones, which filmed scenes in parts of the Basque Country in northern Spain that saw a huge spike in tourism soon thereafter. But Bravo adds that, typically, only the tourism industry’s viewpoint is taken into account, and that generally speaking, the money that flows in does not go to the locals. “Promoting tourism through audiovisual content can be a success story, but from the point of view of the location and its people it is not necessarily better. You have to think about the social and environmental costs, and the kinds of jobs that are generated.”

For the general manager of the Santo Mauro hotel in Madrid, Fernando Núñez, hosting a film shoot has benefits that go beyond economics, such as giving exposure to the brand. But then again, it means that “the hotel has to be closed, because a shoot is not compatible with the accommodation of external clients.” The Santo Mauro fits the profile of a hotel that could lend itself to a production the size of The White Lotus. This 19th-century palace located in Madrid’s upscale Chamberí district is one of the most exclusive hotels in the Spanish capital, and one of the most iconic in the country. David Beckham made it his home during his time as a player with Real Madrid.

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