CONQUERING Westeros may be a battle for characters in popular HBO show Game of Thrones (GoT), but tourism operators in Northern Ireland are equally battling for Chinese tourism dollars by way of destination marketing via the series.
Partly thanks to pirated copies, the hit show has been making its rounds in China where viewers have quickly taken to it, showing interest in locations featured on the show including Northern Ireland, Croatia, and Iceland.
Chinese-language publication Sputnik China reported that the new wave of interest in those countries is possibly linked to a surge of viewership of the show.
Chinese travel agency Ctrip said that the number of tourists from mainland China who booked a trip to Croatia during the first half of 2017 has increased by 300 percent as compared to the year before, while Iceland tours increased by 148 percent.
While there is no direct evidence that the bookings are definitely because of GoT, Chinese tourism trends based on popular culture is not new. In 2012, popular Chinese comedy Lost in Thailand inspired a surge of bookings in Thailand, and China was subsequently recorded the biggest tourist market in the kingdom in 2013.
“The places where some successful movies were filmed attract tourists from many countries, especially from China,” Chinese movie producer Wu Jiang told Sputnik.
“In the 1990s, Zhang Xianliang made an interesting film about northwestern China, and tourists flocked to those places in droves… I wouldn’t be surprised if after the success of Wolf Warriors 2, which is set in Africa, our (Chinese) tourists would flock there as well.”
To further capitalize on the GoT craze, Tourism Ireland teamed up with HBO Asia to run a promotional campaign to “remind Chinese fans of the TV show that Northern Ireland is one of the main filming locations for GoT”.
The tourism campaign targeted 14 million viewers and ran on five popular platforms including social networks, a movie news and reviews website, and HBO and Tourism Ireland’s own social media accounts.
The promotion also threw in a competition component with a chance for five viewers to win a trip for two to Northern Ireland, including a special GoT tour.
The “Doors of Thrones” advertising campaign became so popular it bagged a gold and a silver award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on top of tens of other awards and accolades in the advertising world.
Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons of said following the Cannes win: “We were really pleased to continue our partnership with HBO last year, to highlight the beautiful landscape of Northern Ireland – through the exciting events of Game of Thrones – on the global stage.”
On top of that, GoT displays have been set up in shopping centers while prominent Chinese bloggers and influencers were invited to a video streaming event of the show in Shanghai.
The Diplomat reported that another way the Chinese positively responded to the show was blending some of the HBO production’s elements with their own culture. For example, a collection of superimposed pictures with the GoT characters as Chinese vendors proved to be a hit.
GoT first aired in China in 2012 via CCTV, and despite censors clamping down on scenes depicting violence and nudity, it has proven to be immensely popular among viewers.