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‘The White Lotus’ effect: Suddenly Sicily is hot

Aubrey Plaza, Will Sharpe, Theo James, and Meghann Fahey in HBO's "White Lotus."Fabio Lovino/HBO

Jennifer Coolidge wasn’t the only fan favorite during season 2 of HBO’s “The White Lotus.” A true breakout star emerged from Mike White’s black comedy-drama: Sicily. Travelers are now craving their own “White Lotus” experience, hopefully without all the infidelity, scams, cocaine, and killer gays.

Throughout the series, viewers were entranced by Sicily’s dramatic cliffs, deep blue water, and Renaissance architecture. According to the travel app Hopper, searches for Sicily flights and hotels increased by 50 percent through the show’s run. Data from BestValueSchools.org found that searches for “Sicily Hotel” increased by 400 percent, “Sicily” increased by 100 percent, and “San Domenico Palace” increased by 950 percent.


“We have seen an enthusiastic interest in Sicily of late,” said travel adviser Cathy Marucci of Marucci Travel. “You can say people have finally woken up to the beauty, culture, warmth, and sincerity of the Sicilian people, or you can simply say ‘White Lotus’ is the reason. Either way, Sicily has become a hot spot.”

A report issued by Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel advisers, and the Excellence Collection of hotels found that Italy is the top destination within Europe that travelers plan to visit in 2023.

“The White Lotus” is the latest HBO show that has turned a filming location into a tourism hot spot (remember all those “Game of Thrones” tours of Croatia, Iceland, Spain, and Northern Ireland?). But film tourism, which refers to both movies and TV, has been growing in recent years. Photo Aid, a website that assists with passport and visa photos, asked 1,000 Americans to share their thoughts on film tourism. The survey found that 96 percent of Americans have visited places associated with their favorite television shows or movies at least once in their lifetime. That demand will continue into 2023, with another 78 percent planning a TV or film-inspired vacation.


Jennifer Coolidge and Jon Gries in Season 2, Episode 2 of HBO's "The White Lotus." Fabio Lovino/HBO

The most common reason cited for film tourism is to follow in the footsteps of story lines and characters, but let’s hope that’s not the case with “The White Lotus.” If you do take a “White Lotus” trip, don’t dine and ditch. Please, pay for your arancini.

For those excitedly planning a “White Lotus” vacation, complete with a stay at San Domenico Palace in Taormina, which stood in for the White Lotus, start saving now. A quick glance at the hotel’s website shows that many of the more “affordable” rooms (which run about $800 a night) are already booked. If you’re willing to stay elsewhere, the average nightly hotel rate in Taormina is $192. Airfare to Sicily is no bargain either. It’s currently averaging $1,225 round-trip from the United States.

Another tip: Make sure you carefully choose the friends you vacation with, and beware of high-end gays.

Christopher Muther can be reached at christopher.muther@globe.com. Follow him @Chris_Muther and Instagram @chris_muther.