From King’s Landing to Winterfell, Chinese tourists flock to locations made famous by TV shows such as Game of Thrones
The stunning backdrops used in shows like Game of Thrones are the inspiration for a new generation of travellers, industry insiders say
Last year, 24-year-old Chinese woman Lu Yingying spent 17 days travelling in Croatia, Spain and Northern Ireland. In the future she hopes to visit Iceland, Malta and Morocco.
Her choice of destination is not random. All of the places on her wish list have one thing in common: they have all provided locations for the hit television drama Game of Thrones.
A big fan of the show and a subtitle translator for its Chinese version, Lu said she received travel advice requests from about a dozen people after she wrote about her trips online.
“They are also GoT fans and want to go,” Lu said.
According to industry insiders, a growing number of Chinese tourists are including visits to locations made famous in films and television shows as part of their foreign holiday itineraries.
China’s leading online travel agency Ctrip said that Game of Thrones, season seven of which is now showing, has promoted once little known parts of Europe into must-see destinations.
The number of mainland Chinese tourists who booked trips to Croatia via the platform in the first half of the year grew by 300 per cent from the same period of 2016, while bookings to Iceland rose 148 per cent, and trips to Spain jumped by 77 per cent, it said, without giving absolute figures.
Lu said that while most of the GoT fans flocking to film locations are from North America and Britain, the size of the Chinese contingent is growing.
“When I was preparing for my trips last year, I found hardly any travel notes in the Chinese online community,” she said, adding that she used about 400 screenshot images to help identify the locations and brought back more than 200 photographs of the actual sites.
“I saw only a few black-haired people last year, but now I’m seeing more and more Chinese tourists getting the idea,” she said.
Most of the people who approached her for advice were either students already based overseas or 30-somethings who could afford to pay for the trips, she said.
Professor Zhou Lingqiang, head of Zhejiang University’s tourism and hotel management department, said that people are often inspired to travel by the locations they see in films and television dramas.
“Shopping is no longer as important for them. People’s tastes have changed, and they are now more interested in seeing the local culture, experiencing a particular feeling or visiting [the site of], a historic event,” he said.
Peng Liang, a researcher from Ctrip’s Tourism Business Unit, said that the average age of travellers is falling.
“Younger people, born in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, make up the bulk of Chinese tourists going overseas, and they are bringing great changes in tourist behaviour,” he said.
“Demand for material things is being replaced by more spiritual needs.”
The popularity of the northern Thai city Chiang Mai, for instance, soared after it was featured in the Chinese movie Lost in Thailand, Peng said.
“Last year, interest in the previously little-known Japanese city of Hida rocketed after it appeared in the Japanese movie Your Name,” he said.
Chinese places used as filming locations have also benefited. Holiday booking website Tuniu.com currently offers more than 20 packages to Puzhehei, a scenic area in southwestern China’s Yunnan province, which was featured in the popular television drama Eternal Love earlier this year.