When the executive producers of Game of Thrones decided to come to Dubrovnik for the second season and transform the city into King’s Landing not too many people in the city raised an eyebrow. The series, at that time, wasn’t on the radar of most people in Croatia, it wasn’t even on television and fans had to search the internet to follow it. If that was the case in 2011 the story today, as the city braces for the eighth and final season, is incredibly different.
Souvenir shops, thrones and guided tours have sprung up all over the historic Old City – Game of Thrones is now big business and an important branch for the tourism industry. Just last year the second most numerous tourists in the city were Americans, and when you bear in mind that there are no direct flights from the US to Croatia that fact is even more surprising – the number one reason they came in huge numbers was to see the locations from the HBO serial at first hand.
“Croatia got a great opportunity through film tourism also known as screen tourism. We are also ahead all of countries which participated in Game of Thrones,” explained Ivan Vukovic to the Dubrovnik Times.
Vukovic is one of the leading guides for Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik – basically he is the “go to” guide and a wealth of information. But he has cast his Game of Thrones net much wider than just Dubrovnik, he has travelled to every country where the serial is filmed and has visited most of the actual locations. And during these trips he has built up a foundation of knowledge, seeing the business side of the serial, opportunities or in many case missed opportunities.
“When I visited Spain, Morocco, Northern Ireland, Malta and Iceland nobody offered any me kind of tours. Even in the tourist info centres they couldn’t give me any information on who ran themed tours,” commented Vukovic who has just come back from a fact finding trip to Iceland. And not only couldn’t he find tours but he also didn’t have any luck finding souvenir shops for the serial. The only souvenir shop he found was in Girona, Spain. Dubrovnik on the other hand has a wide spectrum of souvenir shops; there is even one with an actual full-scale throne in one of them.
Fact finding in Iceland
There can be no doubting the massive global marketing that the serial has brought to Dubrovnik – a golden goose laying multiple eggs on an annual basis. “When you come to Croatia you find all the brochures everywhere around Split and Dubrovnik. We have become a hotspot and have received a lot of free marketing regarding all the movies shot here. This phenomenon started a few years ago as shooting of Game of Thrones started in 2011. In Croatia so it took couple of years to become a big deal,” added Vukovic.
Getting caught on camera in Girona, Spain
Game of Thrones acted as the first domino. Since King’s Landing appeared on millions of screens all over the world other major productions, dazzled by the stunning locations, have followed suit. After playing host to the most popular TV serial of all time what next? The answer came with the most popular movie franchise of all time – Star Wars. The eighth episode, The Last Jedi, transformed the ancient cobbled streets into a galaxy, far, far away. And this year saw the latest Leonardo DiCaprio blockbuster entering the city – Robin Hood: Origins. More fans, more publicity and more tours are sure to come in their wake.