Destination of the month

Dubrovnik Tourism & The End Of “Thrones”

The hit book series and HBO adaptation Game Of Thrones has changed the nature of tourism in Croatia. Because the series is wildly popular around the world, and many of its most significant locations are filmed in Croatia, the country has seen a measurable uptick in visitors throughout the show’s run on HBO.

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This is something you’ve undoubtedly heard about by now with particular regard to the capital city of Dubrovnik (which is the basis for the fictional capital of King’s Landing). However, it’s spread around the country as well; Hot Spots previously profiled a Game Of Thrones tour in Split, for instance.

It’s still Dubrovnik that’s experienced a legitimate tourism phenomenon though. Long recognized as a gorgeous Mediterranean city teeming with history, and a nice alternative to better-known destinations in Italy and Greece, it’s now one of the hottest places in the world to visit. Some simply want a glimpse of the closest thing to a real King’s Landing; some want to do specific tours and sightseeing related to the show; and some, in all likelihood, simply want to appreciate it for what it is, even if it came to their attention through Game Of Thrones.

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It’s all quite exciting, though it certainly has its downsides as well. Dubrovnik has become susceptible to annoying crowds, and could be said to have lost a touch of its innocence or authenticity along the way. The Thrones-driven throngs of tourists have landed the city on lists of places being ruined by tourism, and it’s not a stretch to understand why, even if the word “ruined” may be somewhat harsh. Now, however, the city faces an interesting crossroads. Game Of Thrones will wrap up this spring with its finale season, bringing an almost decade-long cultural phenomenon to an end, and potentially changing things for this wonderful Croatian city.

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In the immediate future there probably won’t be much of a change. It’s not as if the finale of Thrones will simply sever the public’s interest in it. In fact, one could even imagine tourism to spike immediately following the finale, both because it will coincide with the beginning of the summer season and because this is going to be one of the biggest fictional events in recent history, and will cause lasting, lingering excitement.

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On top of the carryover effect, it’s also worth noting that Game Of Thrones is likely to endure in several ways:

  • HBO has already ordered a spinoff of the series, delving into the vast fantasy world and/or history created by author George R.R. Martin. Reports have been somewhat all over the place as to what precise topics the spinoff will concern, as well as whether it will be a one-off or one of many projects. It is fairly safe to assume that Thrones will live on through a second show though, and this could conceivably extend Dubrovnik’s relevance to fans – particularly if King’s Landing is part of the future project(s).
  • Game Of Thrones will also likely enjoy sustained popularity through gaming. To date, the show has been surprisingly weak on this front. Telltale had a decent but short-lived series revolving around the show, and a few disappointing mobile games have come out as well. Additionally, some of the online casino networks known for their inventive and alluring bonus structures as well as their vast collections of games have hosted a Thrones-based slot machine, which has actually been consistently entertaining. The slot game may be the most likely to endure, but the end of the show could also bring brand new games, which could conceivably keep people excited about the series for years more to come.
  • There may also be books still to come, though this is increasingly in doubt. Martin had originally planned two more large, jam-packed novels to complete his written series, and may still adhere to this plan. He’s a notoriously meticulous writer who’s been very slow about penning these final works, but if he does – and if they’re released over the course of several more years – it will keep people interested, keep people engaged in re-watching the HBO series, and potentially keep Dubrovnik crowded.

These three factors – spinoffs, games, and books – will all, together, keep Game Of Thrones relevant long after the spring of 2019. They may also mean that things remain unchanged in Dubrovnik. At the same time though, interest in the fantasy may not always translate to such massive interest in tourism.

It could simply be that as the story endures and extends in various forms, King’s Landing is emphasized less, and thus the Dubrovnik connection starts to lessen. It may be that other filming locations move to the forefront via the planned spinoff, or spinoffs. And it may simply be that interest naturally ebbs after a while, as Thrones remains popular but not as popular as it’s been.

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In time, the tourism boom will likely subside one way or another. It may even be that when all is said and done, and the crowds dissipate some, the show will simply become yet another fascinating aspect of the city’s history.

Photo: Ivan Vuković

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