From Pages to Planes: Literary Tourism Takes Off

As the demand for niche tourism experiences grows, operators like Carol El Hawary of Literary Tours Egypt are bringing stories to life to attract real-world tourism

Reading Time: 3 minute 55 seconds

Romeo & Juliet, Death on the Nile, Outlander, The Alchemist, Harry Potter… what do these books have in common? They have all driven masses of travelers to enchanting, far-flung places around the world.

Stories can be so powerful that they create new demand to visit places that might not have a massive tourism boom (yet). Take Outlander, for example. A book series that takes place in the Scottish Highlands has resulted in what people are calling “The Outlander Effect”, increasing tourism by an average of 67% (from 887,000 to 1.5 million) at the sites mentioned in the books and TV series.

Sites from the Outlander books and TV shows have become popular draws for fans of the series | Photo: Diego Allen / Unsplash

The rising demand for niche experiences is a massive opportunity for experience providers, as Arival Insider Carol El Hawary realized. Hawary became curious about Egypt at a young age when she saw paintings her great aunt had brought back from Egypt in 1910. This fascination led to a deeper exploration of the culture through books, and eventually, travel.

After meeting her husband, a tour operator in Egypt, she relocated to the country and in 2020 started Literary Tours Egypt. “People read something, and it touches or moves them, and they want to experience that in a very real way,” Hawary shares.

When people read a book (or watch a movie), they are actually psychologically immersed into the story. According to neuroscientist, Paul Zak, “if you pay attention to a story and become emotionally engaged with the people in it, then the brain appears to be transported into the story’s world.” For this new niche of literary travelers, it is that emotional connection to the story’s setting and characters that drives the desire to go there in real life.


28-30 APRIL 2025

Insider Pro Access Members Save 20%

THE event of the year for the European in-destination experiences industry

Save up to €910 with the Super Early Bird ticket

Learn More

A Woman of Cairo, Iris and Ruby, and of course the highly acclaimed Death on the Nile, have all attracted a niche group of travelers that want to travel in the footsteps of people they have only read about. For Hawary, one example of this was the Old Cataract, a hotel featured in Death on The Nile. “When I went there and sat on this terrace [that was featured in the book] and looked over the Nile, I got the shivers.”

The Old Cataract hotel, made famous by Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile | Photo: Carol El Hawary

The possibilities are endless when you have an engaged built-in audience, and Hawary has exciting plans for the future. “One thing we are about to experiment with is a writer’s retreat where we take aspiring writers on a writing cruise on a dahabiya, the old-fashioned sailboats that sail on the Nile. Our first one is focused on crime fiction, and we have lined up an author to come and run the writing part of the retreat. We will also visit some key sights from Death on the Nile to give people inspiration from Agatha Christie, who still inspires many crime writers.”

But your guests don’t have to be aspiring writers to be drawn to a place that they have only read about in stories. Just about every reader has a book that at one point, changed their perspective, or maybe even their life. Arival editor Janelle Visser has shared her motivation for traveling to New Zealand (or should we say, Middle Earth).


23-25 NOVEMBER 2024

Insider Pro Access Members Save 20%

THE event of the year for solutions-focused In-Destination Experience
creators and sellers

Save up to £440 with the Super Early Bird ticket

Learn More

Operator Takeaway: Bringing Stories to Life on Your Tours

Are you a passionate fan of a story that takes place somewhere in the world, real or imaginary? Does that story have loyal fans from all over the world? If so, consider creating a literary tour, or finding ways to weave popular stories and narratives into your existing experiences. For example, a food tour based in Mexico could dedicate just one stop or one part of an experience to sharing a cultural anecdote from Like Water for Chocolate. Or a family-friendly tour through Paris could find ways to entertain children by recreating moments experienced by Madeline (the beloved children’s book series). 

Whether or not your experiences are sold purely as ‘literary tours,’ finding ways to create a connection to your destination with stories that people have an emotional connection to will enhance your guest’s experience and can help you grow your brand by attracting a new niche of travelers.

Become an Insider Pro Access member today and get access to the full library of Arival research, plus many other benefits such as free consulting sessions, special discounts and 20% off in-person events, starting from $179 per year.


Sign up to receive insights tailored for the in-destination industry as well as updates on Arival.

Sign Up

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


already a member?

Lost your password?


Become an Arival Insider

Included in Free Membership

Included in Arival Pro Membership

The Arival on-demand video library archive
Access to the entire library of over 150 video sessions and webinars

Short, digestible research & trends reports delivering insights into our industry, such as The Tour Operator Outlook for 2021. articles
Topical articles about marketing, tech, operator business and operator stories in all areas of tours, activities & attractions & experiences

Job board access
Find a job from our regular listings, post a resume to the talent network and learn strategies from the job resources articles

New webinars
Helpful, instructional sessions covering subjects such as Mastering Facebook Ads, Grow Your Business and How To Work With OTAs — topics to help advance your business.

Discounts on all Arival in-person events
20% Discount on all Arival in-person events (save up to $300)* based on business type

Arival ProShield – Insurance program
Access to tailored insurance solutions by Granite Insurance is available exclusively for Arival Insider Pro Access Members. Insider Pro Access Members also have access to a suite of resources from Granite Insurance including templates, forms and other informative documents.

Insiders Pro Access member exclusive webinars
Paid membership-only webinars to deepen your understanding of important industry topics.

Job postings & talent directory
Post jobs & connect with candidates most applicable to your business.

Private roundtables to connect, learn and engage
Small, focused and intimate discussions exclusive to Arival Insider Pro Access members.

Full access to Arival’s library of in-depth reports
Up to date, deep analysis of tourism topics ranging from Self-guided Tours to Sales & Distribution Trends and Outlooks, based on the data that defines the industry.

The latest on-demand videos
Over 350+ on-demand videos featuring hot topics in tours, activities & attractions

Insider discounts in digital marketing, tech, e-learning, and more
Save money on additional tools, services and learnings you need to run your business. Exclusive to paid members.

Membership Overview

At Arival, we believe travel can make the world a better place. Our mission is to establish and inspire a diverse community of individuals and companies in the In-destination Industry by providing opportunities to gain insight, share knowledge and build connections. To make it possible for true collaboration, creativity, innovation, and idea exchange to thrive, we are committed to facilitating a welcoming and respectful community for all. This Conference Code of Conduct shares our community expectations and applies to all attendees, employees, exhibitors, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and other participants at Arival- produced and sponsored events. We empower all participants in our community to actively engage in creating a friendly, inclusive and safe environment for all.

Arival’s core values include the following, and create an expectation for conduct at our events and in online community spaces:

We demonstrate a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.
We value integrity and strive to consistently interact with others in ways that are authentic, ethical, and fair.
We are dedicated to transparency, committing to clear, open and honest communication.
We actively pursue and advocate for inclusion, diversity and representation of varying cultural backgrounds, perspectives and ideas

Arival welcomes people from all cultural backgrounds, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, gender (including pregnancy, perceived pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions), gender identity, religion (including religious dress and grooming), marital status, domestic partner status, genetic information, age, national origin or ancestry, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local laws.

Accordingly, participants must refrain from displaying any demeaning, harassing, aggressive, or intimidating behavior or materials that would interfere with others’ experience and participation in our community.

If you witness or are subjected to inappropriate or disruptive behavior or have any other concerns, notify an Arival staff member as soon as possible.

Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. Arival reserves the right to refuse entry to or remove any party from any event or community space at any time when participation or behavior create a disruption or hinder the event or enjoyment of the event by other participants. All determinations are at the sole discretion of Arival, and the decision of the Arival team will be final. Severe breaches of this Conference Code of Conduct may result in disqualification from participating in future events. Individuals expelled due to violating this Conference Code of Conduct will not be eligible for a refund or other consolation.

If you have questions regarding this Conference Code of Conduct or its implementation, please contact us at [email protected].