Celebrities and cultural figures often translate to high earnings for the hometowns or birthplaces they originated from.
Barbados wants you to “Shut Up and Drive.”
The Caribbean island will soon change the name of Westbury New Road — the street on which Rihanna grew up — to Rihanna Drive, in honor of the “Diamonds” singer. The name change will take place on November 30th — the island’s Independence Day holiday.
While it’s unclear just how many Rihanna fans make pilgrimages to her hometown when visiting Barbados, one expert — Dr. Lynn Minnaert, a professor and academic director at New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism — says that the cultural impact a celebrity can have on his or her birthplace is palpable. And that celebrity association can even translate into millions of dollars in additional revenue for those locales.
Take Britain’s beloved royal family. The impact they have on British tourism is well-documented: In 2011, for example, the royal wedding of Prince William and his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, bumped up annual national tourism revenue by 5% year over year, bringing the annual total up to $23.4 billion. That astronomical sum can be attributed to 30.6 million visitors — an 800,000-person increase over the visitor numbers from the year prior in 2010.
The same can be said for cultural figures whose posthumous legacy brings out fans well after their deaths. For instance, the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, a quaint district council in central England, is a popular stop for tourists thanks to its being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. According to the BBC, his enduring legacy has translated into big bucks for the city’s local economy. Nearly ten million tourists a year visit the charming town, which translates into roughly $834 million in annual tourism revenue.
“If the person has passed away… [there is] a lot of interpretation around sites that you’re seeing. People who go there want to be educated about Shakespeare’s life and Shakespeare’s work,” Minnaert says, explaining why so many Shakespeare fans still make the trip to the town for its historical significance.
While it’s not entirely certain how many people will take a stroll down Rihanna’s honorific street, if it’s any indication, big name stars equate to big bucks for a local region’s economy. No wonder the government of Barbados is banking on that effect in St. Michael — Rihanna will inaugurate the renamed street in a special two-hour ceremony alongside the island’s Prime Minister, at the end of November.
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