Game of Thrones is barreling towards its final season of dragons, epic battles, and incestuous alliances. The beloved show has always leaned heavily into using real-world locations to give the fantasy a firm root of tangibility. When a show, or movie, uses amazing real-life locations, an ancillary tourism arm invariably emerges. Once sleepy corners of the planet — like Iceland and Croatia –are suddenly thrust into the limelight and intrepid wanderlusters begin to flock to their shores. Tourism numbers boom, money pours in, and tourists get that dreamy Instagram post that they can hashtag with their favorite show or film. That feels like a win all around.
Alas, it’s never that simple. First, let us just say, tourism is the backbone of many an economy and we’re never going to tell you not to go somewhere. That’s just not our style. However, it’s getting clearer and clearer that we are over-taxing places like an Instagram-filtered Lenny cradling a puppy. Iconic beaches are being shut down entirely from the Philippines to Thailand and, now, Croatia’s medieval berg, Dubrovnik, is starting to wilt under the pressure of too many people.
Dubrovnik is the backdrop for much of what we see as King’s Landing in the hit HBO series. The real world old town is home to just 2,500 people and some days a single cruise ship will release 2,000 people onto its streets. That may not seem too crazy until you consider that up to 13 cruise ships have been known to dock in Dubrovnik’s harbor, which causes “chaos,” according to locals speaking with AP News.
Here’s the rub, AP News reports that it’s a two-pronged malfeasance at play. One, cruise ships and regular tourism are clogging the city streets to the point where people cannot move. That’s not great and it’s also, literally, damaging the fragile town. Two, the cruise ships offer in-house guided tours that don’t always rely on locals or allow for those tens-of-thousands of tourists to spend much money in actual Dubrovnik on meals and the like. Case in point, a local busker told AP News, that “we have crowds of people who are simply running around to take selfies and photos and that’s it.” This means while locals in Dubrovnik are likely benefitting, they’re not seeing any windfalls from this glut of tourism.