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Tourists take to Game of Thrones trail

By WANG MINGJIE/XU LIN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-21 07:49

Downhill Beach in Northern Ireland was used as the location for Dragonstone castle. Photo provided to China Daily

Wolfgang Arlt, director of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, said, "Many Chinese are fans of this show, and everything famous and prestigious is interesting for Chinese travelers to visit and to discuss with their friends."

Shi Shan, 30, a business manager from Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, visited Dubrovnik because it was used as a location in Game of Thrones.

"The city appealed to me with its coastal location, reasonable cost of living and beautiful architecture. Although many European cities can match this, the fact that it was also a location for GoT made it a must for me, as I have been following the show since the pilot episode," Shi said.

Chen Lu, 42, was thrilled to visit Klis Fortress in Split, Croatia, a location used in the show for the city of Meereen in Slaver's Bay. She also visited Dubrovnik.

"The show's popularity has been boosting local tourism," said Chen, a stay-at-home mother from Shanghai who traveled to Croatia in August with her German husband and 10-year-old daughter.

"For European tourists, Croatia is a popular destination with its long coastline, as they like to go sailing. But there has been a rise in visitors from Asia and the United States in recent years, and they want to see the locations used for Game of Thrones," she said.

Chen added that a wide range of souvenirs related to the show are available in stores, including mugs, T-shirts and caps. It is also easy to find a local travel agency offering day tours with a GoT theme.

"Our tour guide was very professional. It was a fantastic experience for diehard fans of the show, and I chatted happily about the TV series with three travelers from the US in our group," she said.

The tour guide showed the visitors screenshots from the show to showcase the locations, and also spoke about Dubrovnik's history.

"Many local tour guides were extras in the show. Our guide told us anecdotes about the leading actors and actresses and gave details about the filming of some scenes," Chen said.

"Even if it were not for GoT, Croatia is still worth visiting due to its gorgeous scenery. The show's popularity makes many tourists appreciate the beauty of Dubrovnik's well-preserved old city. The locals are also friendly."

Now that Season 8 has been shown, the show's global popularity is expected to reach new heights, with the Croatian National Tourist Board predicting that interest in Dubrovnik will continue for a number of years.

Arlt, from the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, said, "To make the success last, they will need to make Game of Thrones something you can experience, such as having some props on display, or putting up signs."

Turespana, the agency that promotes Spanish tourism, posted articles on its Chinese social media account about traveling to locations in Spain used for Game of Thrones, resulting in a high number of clicks among netizens.

"Spain is a popular location for Western movies and television series and has also attracted crews from Asian countries in recent years," said Dario Polo Rodriguez, tourism counselor at the Spanish embassy in Beijing.

"I think films and television shows play crucial roles in promoting destinations. I'm glad that more and more Spanish destinations are now known and loved by tourists due to the popularity of these products," he said.

He cited Osuna as an example. The small town in Seville province gained a following at home and abroad when its ancient bullring was used as a location in Season 5 of Game of Thrones in 2014.

The town has benefited greatly from the tourism boom and has also built a museum dedicated to the show.

"As a country with an ancient civilization, Spain offers splendid landscapes and well-preserved scenic spots and historical sites, ranging from Roman remains, ancient castles, monasteries, palaces and Arabic architecture," he said.

Sveinn K. Einarsson, first secretary at the Icelandic embassy in Beijing, said Iceland had experienced a boom in tourists from China in recent years, with the number almost doubling annually.

"The increase is not a direct result of Iceland being a location for Game of Thrones, but this has surely given it a boost," he said.

"Many visitors to Iceland come to the country with the sole purpose of seeing the landscape that is so familiar to them from GoT."

He said Iceland has benefited greatly from being the location for many well-known TV shows and movies, adding that the country has such a unique landscape that people really want to visit it after seeing it on screen.

The Icelandic government has a policy for attracting studios to film in the country, with 25 percent of all production costs being reimbursed. As a result, movies such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Batman Begins were shot in Iceland.

"This is one of the best advertisements Iceland has as a tourism destination," Einarsson said.

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