Game of Thrones helps make tourism king in the North

When a giant stained glass window was unveiled last week opposite Belfast City Hall, the installation marked the start of a new campaign to showcase the North as the ‘Game of Thrones Territory’ to the millions of fans of the television series around the world.

The first of six similar installations to be unveiled over the coming weeks, called Glass of Thrones, the promotion has been created by Tourism Ireland and Tourism NI in partnership with television network HBO.

Set to roll out across 10 markets, the campaign will include Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Ireland.

Designed to coincide with the airing of each of the remaining episodes of the iconic series, each window will highlight a key event in the story, and will form the spine of a Game of Thrones tourist trail, leading fans across the city to the final window at the Titanic Studios, where much of the show has been produced.

Tourism NI estimates that the series generates over €34m annually in tourism revenue to the local economy, attracting up to 120,000 visitors to the locations where three-quarters of the series is filmed.

“Game of Thrones has been transformative for tourism in Northern Ireland and our joint campaigns have captured the minds and hearts of fans around the world, showcasing Northern Ireland as a must see and must experience destination,” explains John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism NI.

“One of the biggest success stories of our tourism offering is Game of Thrones, which brings tens of thousands of fans here.

“Many successful visitor experiences have been created around this series and continue to contribute to our tourism economy.

“Game of Thrones is now truly part of our culture.”

Previous campaigns, including Doors of Thrones in 2016 and 2017’s Game of Thrones Tapestry, reached a global audience of over 140m.

The short films were viewed almost 50m times, generating coverage worth an estimated €36m.

Irish tourism has garnered significant additional revenue from ‘set-jetting’ — dating back to Ryan’s Daughter in the 1970s and up to the recent Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, where lengthy sections were filmed on Skellig Michael and the Wild Atlantic Way.

While set-jetting was previously seen as a niche market, it has now moved mainstream.

The Harry Potter films are estimated to have driven a 50% increase in tourism to all filming locations across the UK, while Frozen prompted a 37% increase in Norway.

The Game of Thrones series is also cited as prompting a massive jump in Iceland’s tourism, from 560,000 visitors in 2011 to over 1m in 2015.

The number of Game of Thrones tours continues to increase, offering fans the chance to tread the same ground as the White Walkers and visit the scenes of its infamous massacres.

And although the end is near for the series now promoted as “the most successful of all time”, the North will continue to reap huge benefits from its lingering association with the Houses of Stark and Lannister for many years to come.

“Five years ago, there were three operators promoting Game of Thrones experiences, whereas now there are well over 25, and more in the pipeline,” said Judith Webb, Tourism NI’s experience development officer.

“We can see already that businesses are growing on the back of the series. People come for Game of Thrones and stay for Northern Ireland.

“There are people in China who don’t know where Northern Ireland is, but they know Titanic and they know Game of Thrones, and we need to capitalise on that.”

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