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Film tourism in Dubrovnik

The chosen place of interest for our Study Week 2018, Dubrovnik in Croatia, is a developed tourist destination that attracts large number of tourists every year.

Younger generations may recognise it as “King’s Landing” from the popular HBO TV show Game of Thrones, or Star Wars “The Last Jedi”. After the Croat-Bosnian War (1991-1995) and a short recovery period, Dubrovnik has seen a tremendous boom in tourism in recent years. In 2016, the historic mediterranean town with a UNESCO world heritage label generated almost 4 million overnight stays!

The aim of the study week was to look at one or more aspects of tourism in the chosen destination and subsequently define research questions which we would then answer based on interviews with local business partners and our own observations and impressions of the destination.

As a result of extensive and fruitful discussions, we eventually defined the following questions:

‚What is the current image of Dubrovnik as a tourism destination? How has the film industry, especially Game of Thrones, changed/impacted the tourism in Dubrovnik? To what extent does Dubrovnik want to keep its current state as a UNESCO world heritage site?‘

What has once been perceived as a war-zone and place of grief and destruction, is now seen as one of the safest, cleanest and most peaceful tourist destinations in the mediterranean area. Dubrovnik succeeded in sustaining the UNESCO world heritage site status for its picturesque and historic old town, which is enclosed by impressive city walls and towers. For tourists, the old town is a major attraction and motivation to visit. As a result from the interviews, we have found a significant difference in the perceived image of the destination when you look at the age of tourists. Older tourists particularly visit Dubrovnik for its history and the old town. However, younger tourist generations know the city mainly as a filming site from tv shows (Game of Thrones) or movies (Star Wars) and therefore, their main motivation to visit is to see the places where their favourite film or show was produced.

The main impact of Game of Thrones (and film tourism in general) on the local tourism industry is a change in tourist demographics towards a younger clientele and adapting its offers respectively. Nightclubs and bars popped up in the old town, guided film tours replaced historic tours and private rentals (e.g. Airbnb) became more popular.

Despite this development, almost all interviewed partners strongly emphasised the importance of retaining the UNESCO label to ensure future, continued success of Dubrovnik as a tourism destination. Recently, there were rumours about UNESCO threatening to remove the world heritage site label from Dubrovnik because of the masses of tourists flooding the old town and damaging historic sites. We found out that measures have already been implemented to restrict the amount of people and to distribute the crowds better. Unlike film tourism, the popularity of a world heritage site does not suddenly spike and vanish over time. It is a stable and reliable source of income for the people of Dubrovnik, a city where 17.4% of the GDP directly stems from tourism.

 

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