Game of Thrones Tourism
Since the filming in Dubrovnik only started from the Season 2 in 2011 I realized that the “GoT effect” could potentially be measured only from that year onward. According to the official figures by the Croatian Tourist Board, the overall growth of tourist arrivals didn’t seem to have obvious direct connection to the filming, especially since Dubrovnik had already experienced a substantial rise of arrivals in previous years: 12,7% in 2010 and 7,3% in 2011. The period 2012-2014 seem to have just continued this trend so the total increase was 10,5%, 10,2% and 12,4% respectively.
After comparing the structure of tourist arrivals, I realized that the age group of travelers might prove better basis for the analysis. Throughout the 90s and 2000s, Dubrovnik was generally regarded as a destination more suited for the relatively older clientele. The travelers from age groups 41-60 and 60+ comprised well over 60% of the entire tourist arrivals and the local tourist infrastructure was primarily adapted to cater to their needs. This orientation on older customers might have affected the perception of the destination and some even raised complaints regarding Dubrovnik’s limited nightlife options and its overall costliness.
Although the two mentioned age groups (41-60 and 60+) still hold the dominant position in the total number of tourist arrivals, things slowly began to change in the last few years. Relatively younger travelers have become the fastest growing component within the structure of tourist arrivals in the period 2011-2014. Only in 2014 the number of travelers aged 21-30 increased by 21% in comparison to the previous year, while the number of those aged 31-40 increased by 15%. The growth is even bigger if we compare those numbers to 2011 as the number of arrivals swelled by 54% (21-30) and 32% (31-40).
It is indicative that the age groups of visitors with the fastest growth in the last 3 years largely correspond to the biggest portion of the HBO’s audience and GoT’s fan base. Another interesting detail is that the countries of origin of Dubrovnik’s fresh visitors largely coincide with the list of countries where the term ‘Game of Thrones’ was among the most searched topics on the Internet: UK, US, Australia, Ireland and Scandinavian countries.
Regardless of these apparent coincidences and similarities that drew my attention towards this topic (as well as my obvious bias), a more serious research should be conducted in order to provide more precise answers if and how did this phenomenon actually influence the growth of tourist arrivals. Other factors would also need to be taken in consideration: Croatian accession to EU in 2013, the global economic trends, promotional activities of Croatian Tourist Board, airline connections, etc….
In reality, the interest that GoT sparked for visiting Dubrovnik could also be bigger as the numbers I mentioned only refer to those travelers that spent a minimum of one night in the municipality of Dubrovnik, so the figures exclude all those that visited Dubrovnik in form of a single day trip.
One thing is certain though, Dubrovnik’s nightlife has definitely become more vibrant and the accommodation options are far more diverse than before.