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Game of Thrones tourism
Reuters/Cathal McNaughton
Winter is coming…what about tourists?

Will Game of Thrones make Ireland the next New Zealand?


Game of Thrones has attracted a cult following over the past three seasons and Ireland, where part of the series is filmed, wants a piece of the profits.

After what Tourism Ireland describes as “months of negotiation” with HBO, the country is launching a Game of Thrones-themed campaign in time for the series’ season four debut.

The campaign will be run entirely on social media, with Facebook and Twitter ads appearing until early June in the U.S., Great Britain, and throughout Europe.

The social media ads will direct potential visitors to a website that maps out where Game of Thrones locations are in real life. The site also includes links to deals and booking tools.

Tourism Ireland did not pay HBO for the rights to use the show’s name and logo, but its agreement will be reviewed at the end of the campaign.

This is the first time the tourism board is taking the opportunity to exploit Ireland’s connection to the blockbuster TV series, although tour companies have packaged trips to both Ireland and Dubrovnik, Croatia, another filming site for the series. A representative of Ireland’s tourism board says it has yet to measure an increase in visitors as a direct result of the show.

A challenge for travel destinations that are presented on TV as part of mythical worlds is that viewers might not know where the locations exist in reality. That’s why tourism boards have found it useful to proactively make the connection between a series and its filming location.

“The Tourism Ireland adverts are specially designed to bridge the fantasy of Game of Thrones with the reality of Northern Ireland,” Northern Ireland politician Arlene Foster said in a statement announcing the campaign.

The closest parallel to Ireland’s effort is New Zealand’s successful campaign to brand itself as the real Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings.

New Zealand reported a record year for tourism in 2013 with 2.7 million overseas visitors — a result driven, at least in part, by the country’s massive Hobbit-themed campaigns.

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