Winter has come, but unfortunately for fans of the show, the cold chill won’t be felt for the best part of a year. Yes, Game of Thrones’ (GOT) season 7 may have finished, but fans of the show still have the chance to live the experience thanks to the show’s locations and some keen marketing from the tourism industry. So how exactly is the tourism industry benefiting from the show’s success?
Leveraging A Unique Product
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board have worked particularly well to fill the void between seasons. Having been featured so often in the show’s production, visiting Northern Ireland has become something of a rite of passage for the GOT mega-fan. Game of Thrones fans visiting both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is an example of product differentiation – customers are being offered something unique. This was not planned as such, but companies across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have recognised the demand to see the show’s locations. Whilst strategically planning a tourism marketing campaign, many marketers will have to carefully plan their messages, costing and positioning of exposure – this example is, however, unique. The show, recently watched by 30 million viewers in the US, has given local tourism all the exposure it needs. HBO is doing most of the heavy lifting by giving the show’s locations so much importance.
Stephen Gray is one such entrepreneur taking advantage of the GOT tourism bubble. After seeing fans of the show around the Dark Hedges (the Kings Road for fans) on a cold winter’s night, Stephen knew that Gracehill House, the hotel and golf club close by, would become a popular spot. In an interview with the Guardian, Stephen said:
“That was the moment when I knew this hotel and the ground around had the potential to be part of this globalised product… If people were prepared to come onto this road at 11.30pm on a cold, dark winter night just to say they were on the Kingsroad along the Dark Hedges, then they would come anytime.”
Big Money for Local Economies
The BBC reported that “since 2014, Tourism Ireland has been using Game of Thrones to help promote Northern Ireland to visitors, aiming to capitalise on the shows’ huge worldwide appeal.” An estimated £150 million has been added to the local economy.
The numbers seem to indicate that Stephen Gray and Tourism Ireland’s thoughts were right; according to the BBC report, “tourism numbers hit 2.6m in 2016, a rise of 12%”. The next task appears to be not just increasing the number of visitors, but maintaining a steady stream year-on-year. This is where tourism boards will need to adapt and plan accordingly to offer unique experiences that offer fans of the show something worth travelling for. It’s also key to maintain the area’s natural beauty and make sure the positive impact of Game of Thrones related tourism is sustained, whilst mitigating any negative impact.
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