What ‘The Bachelorette’ has done for tourism
The show’s contestants often end up in some far-flung destination. But has Bimini, Latvia or that sex windmill in Greece received a boost in tourism since being featured? Tricia Gilbride investigates.
There is nothing more exhausting than breaking up with someone who won’t even let you speak. But drop the whole exchange on the Greek island of Santorini, and 23 seasons of The Bachelor and 15 seasons of The Bachelorette begin to make a little more sense.
Telling off a slut-shaming suitor on the most recent season, Bachelorette Hannah B. declares, “I have had sex and Jesus still loves me.” In confessionals, she righteously brags about the Fantasy Suite rendezvous with Pilot Pete. “I fucked in a windmill, and guess what? We did it a second time.” It’s precisely the kind of dramatic confrontation the franchise thrives on in which the virtuous quest for the ultimate prize, true love, is blanketed in absurdity and aspiration. On my couch, I consider the logistics of renting an entire windmill.
The Bachelor is a travel show disguised as a dating show. Of the 30 or so contestants each season, most who make it past the first Rose Ceremony will, at the very least, venture outside the mansion and see a bit of California, journeying from hot tub to hot tub. Then the whole gang relocates to a stateside destination or two, perhaps a ski lodge in Utah. The survivors go international to suffer foreign indignities, like competitive miming in Paris for the opportunity to spend more than five minutes alone with the woman they all call their girlfriend. From there, the top four contenders play host in their hometowns, making the very best case they can for potentially living or at least spending holidays in Hoxie, Arkansas or Huntington Beach, CA. Fantasy Suites, in which the Bachelor or Bachelorette have the opportunity to spend the night with their top contenders, amp up the drama, housing the lovers in luxury glass igloos, for one. Finally, whoever remains meets up in one last jaw-dropping exotic locale for the Final Rose Ceremony. Conversely, only one contestant walks away with requited love, if even that.
The now-famous windmill is available to book on Airbnb for a reasonable $56 USD a night if you can make your way to Nikithianos, Greece. The couple offering the unique property for rent, Giorgios and Athina, cozy up in a selfie included in the listing, like a Bachelor success story. Renters have to descend a set of exterior stairs to get to the bathroom from the lovers’ lair, which is probably a plus if you find yourself in a foreign country sharing a bed for the first time with someone who has a 25% chance of imminently proposing.
There are currently only four reviews for the windmill, but since I viewed the listing, increasingly urgent emails from Airbnb tell me to move fast, bookings are expected to go up by 100%. Most destinations featured on the show will at least see a significant digital spike in interest, but whether or not that actually translates into actual tourism depends on a few factors.
The likability of the Bachelor or Bachelorette at the heart of the season matters some. Jade Mountain, a resort in St. Lucia, has hosted the show twice and a couple of foreign spin-offs with mixed results. After Jake Pavelka’s season, visitors mentioned discovering the resort through the show, according to a representative for the resort. Cartoon villain Juan Pablo’s drama distracted from the locale, however, and Jade Mountain reports “no economic benefit” from hosting his season.
On the other hand, Bachelor Nation’s most popular couple, Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudici, got engaged at Pa Sak Tong resort in Thailand. John Dunbar, the General Manager of the resort worked closely with the show’s crew, and says there hasn’t been a noticeable impact. “We have had American guests arrive and recognise the resort immediately from the episode and then take various selfies in the bed that Sean and Catherine stayed in,” he says. “But no bookings were generated as a result of filming here.”
Still, they have a page dedicated to the Bachelor connection on their website, and even “have the full episode available for viewing in the entertainment room for guests to enjoy with popcorn!”
This is, in part, probably a matter of commitment level. Checking out a bar you saw on television stateside isn’t quite the same investment as hopping continents to book a pricey Fantasy Suite worthy room at a resort. But it can come down to the contract, and tourist destinations get what they pay for.
The Bachelor set up shop at Pa Sak Tong for a discounted rate and didn’t get so much as a namecheck during the actual program, but plenty of countries’ tourism boards are happy to throw down a few figures for the exposure. Contracts might specify that certain shots of landmarks or mentions from the talent make it into the final broadcast or social media posts.
Park City, Utah is one of them. According to Dan Howard, Director of Communications at Visit Park City, the short distance from LA makes for a convenient ongoing partnership. Montage Deer Valley ski resort and OP Rockwell, a bar offering “Western-meets-Victorian speakeasy” ambiance, have been popular among fans, but the biggest hit was the official Bachelor Nation meetup televised live during the premiere of Colton Underwood’s season. “There are very few ways for a town to be ‘woven in’ to be a backdrop for a highly-rated national television program,” says Howard, but The Bachelor is one of them.
It’s not always a fit. Some locations are just too goth for the conservative franchise, like the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia. The unique date setup made great TV, but the museum has had better luck attracting viewers of more on-brand projects like The Raven and The Following, which are both murder mysteries incorporating Poe himself. A Bachelorette date activity inspired by the collection’s portrait of Poe made from human blood was, perhaps wisely, cut from the broadcast. But according to curator Chris Semtner, there was one clear breakout star.
“People spotted Edgar, the Poe Museum cat, when he ran through one of the shots,” he says. “The camera was at cat level and got a good shot of him. Since then, some of our guests told us they saw him on the show and wanted to meet him during their visits. He is now our resident celebrity.”
Increasingly, the franchise is attempting to jump off the screen, and fan meetups like the one in Park City are just the beginning. The recently-announced Bachelor Live Tour will bring the show to a few dozen cities across the United States, with former contestants helping locals find love on stage. It’s not hard to imagine they’re testing the waters for a Bachelor Nation cruise, creating a self-contained ecosystem for the fandom. Meanwhile on our televisions, they’ll be sure to set up dates so perplexing viewers have no choice but to assume it must be romantic on some level. Fine dining on a submarine somewhere under the Arctic Ocean while a country singer serenades you mere footsteps away? Sure.