Has the Game of Thrones Series Ruined Dubrovnik?

'he continued footfall in Dubrovnik has forced the city to significantly change its policy towards tourists and Game of Thrones fanatics'

‘Unless Disney’s Marvel is your name and recreating fantastical landscapes using CGI is your game, any major TV or movie production needs to scout some pretty spectacular locations to house their otherworldly dramas. Whilst Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series travelled to New Zealand to recreate the charm of Middle Earth, and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune used the great plains of the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan to mimic Arrakis, the HBO series Game of Thrones took to a number of various locations to bring its swords and sandals drama to life’, Calum Russell writes in his article How ‘Game of Thrones’ ruined the Croatian city of Dubrovnik for Far Out Magazine.

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Though the world of Westeros in the fantasy series isn’t quite so basic, made up of mountainous regions, frozen plains and vast, ornate cities. Such called the production team to seek out a number of various locations, venturing to the Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland to capture the icy landscapes ‘beyond the wall’, Bardenas Reales, Spain, for scenes involving the Dothraki sea and Dubrovnik, Croatia to house the stunning King’s Landing.
Located in the deep south of Croatia on the Dalmatian coast, Dubrovnik is known as a gem of the Adriatic sea, featuring stunning views of the sea amidst historic Gothic and Baroque architecture.

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The city may be best known for its ancient barriers against the sea, with these vast walls being a major factor of appeal for the Game of Thrones production team since the appearance almost exactly mirrored the fictional location of King’s Landing.

Whilst the production team may have enjoyed using the location for several seasons of the show, it is the population of the city that has been left with the existential issue of excessive tourism, with legions of fans travelling to the small Croatian city from across the world. Crowding the streets and entrance to Old Town, the neighborhood where much of the HBO show was filmed, locals denounced the arrival of thousands of cruise ships offloading thousands of tourists on their shores when the hype was at its height in 2017.

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Congestion became a significant issue, particularly on the famous limestone-paved Stradun, and in 2017 it was recorded that the population of Old Town had decreased from 5,000 in 1991 to 1,157 people. This decline has been attributed to the increase in tourism, with the increase in holidaymakers driving out local people thanks to the influx of Airbnb accommodation which drives local prices up and destroys any sense of local community.
Overloading infrastructure whilst damaging the local environment and threatening the integrity of local culture, the tourist issue in Dubrovnik forced UNESCO to warn the city that unless something was done about their problem, their world heritage status would be at risk.

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By 2018, the city took heed of the warning and took significant steps to reduce the number of tourists, particularly in the congested area of Old Town, with one successful method being to stagger the arrival of cruise ships to thinly spread the number of visitors.

Excessive tourism as a result of a TV or movie production is nothing new, with Danny Boyle’s 2000 movie The Beach causing irreparable damage to Maya Beach in Thailand and the success of Lord of the Rings magnetizing thousands of fantasy lovers to the islands of New Zealand. But, the continued footfall in Dubrovnik has forced the city to significantly change its policy towards tourists and Game of Thrones fanatics.