Bourdain Bump: Tourism industry has high hopes for Parts Unknown episode

A Los Angeles woman who saw promos for the show called to ask about buying a home, and she has deep pockets, according to a St. John's real estate agent.

CNN show could help draw new tourists to the province, says Hospitality N.L.

Chef Anthony Bourdain was in Newfoundland and Labrador last fall while filming an episode of the television show Parts Unknown. (Instagram)

He might not have mastered the pronunciation of "Newfoundland" but Anthony Bourdain provided the province with an incalculable amount of tourism advertising through his show Parts Unknown, say people involved in promoting the province.

One St. John's real estate agent says he's already had an inquiry from an American looking to buy property and the chair of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador said many others will visit.

"It would be within the hundreds of thousands of dollars for sure, but from our perspective it's priceless because it's not paid advertising," Larry Laite told the St. John's Morning Show Monday about the ad value of the Newfoundland-focused episode of the CNN show.

"It's a gentleman like him coming here, experiencing what we have to offer in a culinary arts perspective and basically, in my opinion, raving about it."

For Parts Unknown Bourdain, a former chef turned food writer and television host, travels the world, focusing each episode of the show on the food, culture and everyday life of a destination.

During the Newfoundland episode, which aired Sunday night, Bourdain ate at Raymonds, attempted to hunt moose, discussed Newfoundland culture with folklorist Dale Jarvis, and took a side trip to St-Pierre-Miquelon.

Show promo prompts real estate inquiry

The exposure from Parts Unknown provides the province with a promotional follow-up punch not long after the boost that came from the Broadway musical Come From Away.

The episode resulted in a 207 per cent spike in visitors to NewfoundlandLabrador.com during the show's airing, the  tourism department said Monday, with 1,161 visits compared to 378 during the same time the previous week.  

Traffic also increased on the website during the two hours before the show aired, and in the hour after.

Just the lead up to the episode may have sparked interest in a possible new resident, said St. John's real estate agent John Hutton.

Hutton received a lead from a woman in Los Angeles who was considering Newfoundland as a retirement location for herself and her husband after seeing promotions for the Parts Unknown episode. 

Nothing is final, Hutton said, and the woman knew nothing about Newfoundland before those commercials — but she wants to know more about homes in the range of $900,000 to $3 million.

That's just one example of the potential reach for the episode.

The CNN travel show premiered its latest season on April 29 to its highest ratings ever, with 1.125 million total viewers, according to CNN. But the potential audience from the episode is even larger than that, Laite said.

Bourdain himself has 7.5 million Twitter followers, he said, and the official Parts Unknown Twitter account — which heavily promoted the show over the past week — has more than 77,000.

Bourdain chatted with well-known CNN host Anderson Cooper before the show aired, and the Parts Unknown website features several articles about Newfoundland food, history and culture.

"It costs about $5,500 for a 30-second ad on the Anthony Bourdain show," Laite said.

"When you look at the fact that we had a full hour, it's pretty amazing."

In particular, he said, the advertising that did air during the episode showed that Bourdain is reaching an audience that Newfoundland and Labrador already aims for: people aged 55 and older with a good disposable income.

"[Who] would be watching and viewing Anthony Bourdain is that type of audience and the ads that were aired show that," he said.

Food an increasing tourism draw

Though the province doesn't get many of what Laite refers to as "accidental tourists," it does sometimes get visitors — for conferences or cruise stopovers, for example — who don't know much about Newfoundland and Labrador coming in.

"We've had people on the front desks of hotels in St. John's saying they had a couple of hours and they wanted to go to Gros Morne," he said.

The search term "Newfoundland" spiked after the Parts Unknown episode aired on May 13, according to Google Trends data. The term "Newfoundland and Labrador" experienced a similar boost. (Google Trends)

"They don't realize the vastness of our province and how large it actually is."

Viewers debated the potential benefits of the show, before and after it aired, online.

The show featured two Quebec chefs, Fred Morin and David McMillan of Joe Beef, travelling with a crew that included Jeremy Bonia and Jeremy Charles of Raymonds. On Anderson Cooper 360, Bourdain credited Morin and McMillan with encouraging him to visit the island.

Laite said having well-known chefs boost the province, and local chefs like Charles, is a great boost for Newfoundland and Labrador, especially as food continues to draw people to the province and drive travel trends in general.

"Jeremy Charles is obviously very well known, but even one of the gentlemen from Joe Beef stated that he's the best chef in Canada," he said.

"We all think that he is definitely one of the top ones in Newfoundland, but to have somebody of that calibre say the same thing is pretty astounding."