European tourist boards love to promote film and TV locations as a way to attract visitors, especially when the productions in question are blockbusters like "Game of Thrones" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." But will a visitor's vacation experience really be enhanced by trodding the same path as, say, Queen Cersei or Luke Skywalker?
Actually, for some of us, the answer is yes. During my visit to Dubrovnik last year, for example, I reverted pretty quickly into a "Game of Thrones" fangirl while walking the streets and seeing easily recognizable film locations within the walls of the Old City, a Unesco World Heritage Site. And while I confess to being a rabid fan of the series, I'm certainly not alone in that -- consider that nearly 9 million people watched the finale of the most recent season.
The Croatian National Tourist Office doesn't hesitate to credit "Game of Thrones" for putting the destination, especially Dubrovnik, on the map for U.S. travelers, starting in 2011, when the HBO series debuted. And Hotels.com has reported upticks in Croatia searches related to the popularity of the show.
Locations are everywhere you look, including St. Dominika Street, Stradun, Minceta Tower, Fort St. Lawrence, Trsteno Arboretum and Lokrum Island. So many visitors were asking for tours that in 2014, the Tourist Board published a "Game of Thrones" site map of Dubrovnik, and guided walking tours like the one I did also are available. The tourist office is quick to point out, however, that filming also took place in other parts of the country, including Diocletian's Palace and the Fortress of Klis in Split, St. Dominic Monastery and Kastel Gomilica in and near Trogir and the seaside town of Sibenik.
Of course, not everything is about "Game of Thrones." "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," which was released in December 2017, featured Dubrovnik in its depiction of Canto Bight, and "Robin Hood," with Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx, will also feature the city prominently when it is released this September.
In addition, rumor has it that Dubrovnik will be the setting for at least part of the next James Bond film with Daniel Craig.
This summer, "Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!" the sequel to the first hit and starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and, this time around, Cher, will showcase the beauty of Vis, one of Croatia's least-known islands. The production company made Komiza, a quiet fishing village, and Stiniva beach its home base. The film is scheduled to debut in July, and it will be interesting to see if the movie's effect on tourism to Vis even comes close to the hordes that descended on Greece after the first film.
It's tough to calculate the exact tourism impact of all this cinematic exposure, but we do know that the number of arrivals from the U.S. from 2011 to 2016 doubled and that this growth continued throughout 2017, with an increase of 35% over 2016.
Of course, there are other, more culturally authentic reasons to visit Croatia: medieval architecture, inviting beaches, a robust wine culture and, this year, newly awarded Michelin stars to the resturants 360 in Dubrovnik and Pelegrini in Sibenik. But for those of us who unabashedly love the movies, Croatia is a main attraction.