Even though Game of Thrones has been and gone, the hype is still very much real. Filled with exotic scenery and impressive landscapes, no one can deny the locations for filming are stunning and evoke wanderlust in all of us. As innocent as this may seem at first, representation of gorgeous settings has its problems, and as the tourist we don’t always see the effects.
Tourism always peaks in areas where a famous film or television show has been set. For instance I remember a school trip to Alnwick Castle and getting very excited about it being a location for certain scenes in Harry Potter. The ‘Game of Thrones Effect’ is a more widespread phenomenon depicting this exact feeling and the results of it. It details the influx of tourism to an area because of media representation, with a specific focus on the aftermath of said tourism. It is generally applied to areas and attractions that cannot cope with the popularity and numbers, such as the old towns of Dubrovnik. Speaking of, the main countries suffering from this because of Game of Thrones specifically are Spain, Croatia, Iceland and Ireland.
During a recent trip to Ireland, my friend and I took a trip to the Giant’s Causeway for the day, and on the way, about five minutes out from the Causeway we stopped at a ruin of a castle, which apparently was used in the filming for Game of Thrones. As someone who hasn’t watched the whole series in its entirety, I could not for the life of me understand why everyone was going crazy over this ruin. People were leaning over the fences and trying to get closer, so I can only imagine this is a regularity at other attractions. I dread to think what lengths people will go to if there are no restrictions on the visit. In some places, tourism has become too hectic, to the extent where police officers are required to control the flow of people and keep the area safe, as shown in areas of Northern Spain.
As example detached from Game of Thrones, certain places in Edinburgh, my home town, were inundated with tourists after its inclusion in Avengers: Infinity War. Waverley Train Station makes an appearance with its iconic green pillars, and a café on Cockburn Street now has extra publicity from the film, because Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany stood outside it for a couple of frames. This example is not as extreme though, because Edinburgh has stood the test of time and endures heavy tourism at multiple points every year, with the Fringe and Edinburgh’s Christmas. Extra tourism out of peak times is unexpected but can be managed much more easily.
Places like Dubrovnik (the setting for King’s Landing) by contrast, have only recently become more popular, and it is now easily one of the most visited sites on the Mediterranean Sea. It’s old stone streets and walls are not as used to the heavy footfall, and the crowds strongly affect the city physically, as well as dampening the experience offered from the old town. In fact in 2017, according to an article published by Forbes, 750,000 tourists disembarked from a grand total of 539 cruise ships, which is a horrifying amount of people, and given the figure shown is just related to cruise ships, I imagine the overall tourist numbers was even larger. In response, a ‘Respect the City’ plan was initiated, in order to reduce tourism and protect the area, with tourism now being limited to 4,000 people at any one time.I think it is becoming increasingly important for travellers to watch the way they travel, especially in the age of the climate crisis and over-tourism. Many places which become popular overnight cannot cope with the floods of people, and hidden gems do not stay hidden very easily anymore. We all understand fandom culture, and most can attribute themselves to it in one way or another. I admit, I would love to tour the sets of my favourite television shows or films in order to see everything for myself. Despite this, there needs to be a level of decency being maintained. Remember when touring the old town of Dubrovnik that people still live there, and you are touring their neighbourhoods. Remember that rural settings are surrounded by land owned by farmers and house animals. Arguably the most important reminder: leave these places as you found them. The problems here come from the sheer numbers of people touring these attractions, but also certain individuals who do not show respect and abuse the surroundings. Don’t be that person.