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Game of Thrones: when tourism inherits the seven crowns

With more than 18 million viewers in its last season, Game of Thrones is a true international showcase for the destinations where episodes are filmed. In addition to the record breaking audience and heightened awareness it brought, the Game of Thrones phenomenon has become a growth engine for tourism in these destinations: Northern Ireland, Malta, Croatia, Iceland, Morocco and more recently Spain.

As the now famous Stark, Lannister, Targaryen, Baratheon and Tyrell families returned to their battle to win the Throne last Sunday, the filming sites are already planning their future as go-to tourist destinations. Since the first season was launched in 2011, the rise of countries hosting the series Game of Thrones as tourist destinations has been significant.

As the setting for most of the episodes in the HBO series, Northern Ireland has seen its tourism business take off. In addition to the international renown acquired by the sites that inspired the Game of Thrones Universe, such as Castle Ward (Winterfell) and Magheramorne (Castle Black), arrivals in the autonomous region lept forward, bringing economic windfall of more than 100 million euros. Hoteliers in Northern Ireland have received their share of the spoils, as data published by MKG Consulting shows on the first four years. The occupancy rates of hotel chains in the region gained more than 10 points on the period, rising 68.7% in 2011 to 78% in 2014. Arrivals naturally affected the RevPAR which reached 53.2 euros in 2014 versus 47.6 euros in 2011. Naturally, these good results are not merely shanks to the series, as tourism growth in Northern Ireland is also due to the current good dynamic of the United Kingdom and the overall peaceful context between the partisans of Orange Order (pro-British) and the independents of Northern Ireland.

Malta & Northern Ireland: Average occupancy rate from 2011 to 2014

Northern Ireland is not the only destination that benefited from the television series. After the production of the first seasons in Valette (King's Landing) and on the Island of Gozo, Malta also saw its tourism and hotel activity leap forward. In just four years the occupancy rate of its hotels went from 69.3% to 73.7% and the average daily rate from 96.9 euros to 117.9 euros, to reach a RevPAR of 86.8 euros in 2014, versus 67.1 euros in 2011. The Mediterranean island then gave up its role as King's Landing to the Croatian capital when certain sites were degraded. This was a godsend for Dubrovnik which was able to strengthen its position as a prime tourism destination in Croatia. The city's mayor, Andro Vlahusic, thus indicated that close to half of the 10% annual growth of revenues for the city were related to the television series...

Iceland is another lucky destination that gained from the passage of Game of Thrones. The production of the series, especially in its snowy glaciers to represent the world beyond the wall, accompanied annual growth in the number of visitors to the volcanic island by 20%. Finally, benefiting from good awareness in the world of tourism, Essaouira, in Morocco (representing the city of Astapor), also did well after the production of the series.

In the last season, Spain was also the scene of battles for the Throne. The cities of Seville and Osuna, in Andalusia, were in fact chosen to represent the Kingdom of Dorne, the southernmost kingdom in the series. The municipal authorities did not hide their enthusiasm when the news was announced : "The series will bring 100 million euros to the city and give work to close to 6,000 people during production. and beyond these economic benefits, the film will also provide formidable publicity for Seville," declared Juan Ignacio Zoido, Mayor of Seville, to Spanish television. What happened in 2015? Sevilla registered the highest growth in RevPAR among major Spanish cities - as backed up by data from the upcoming European Hospitality Report 2016.

As the first episode of the season 6 of Game of Thrones was simultaneously broadcasted in 170 countries, Spain comes under the spotlight once more with episodes shot across Andalusia, especially in Seville (Alcázar Palace), Girona, Guadalajara, Bardenas Reales, and Córdoba (Volantis). The Iberian Peninsula is now one of the key filming locations featured in the series together with Croatia (King's Landing is in Dubrovnik and Ston), Scotland, Iceland, and Game of Thrones' stronghold of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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