Will the Filming of ‘Mamma Mia’ Affect the Island of Vis?

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The island of Vis is getting ready for the ‘Mamma Mia’ invasion: after the initial rumours in June, it was recently confirmed that the sequel to the massively popular musical is indeed getting filmed in Croatia, at several locations on Vis island.

The first members of the film crew arrived on Vis and are building the filming sets under strict confidentiality, reports Jutarnji on August 15, 2017. The filming is set to begin in early September, bringing a total of 700 people to Vis, including the leading stars Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth.

The whole undertaking is expected to draw the attention of international media to the island, as the film has already been dubbed the most expensive foreign production in the history of Croatia. The first major effect is obvious: Vis island will make more than 30 million kuna in the process.

However, there’s another side to the golden story. ‘Mamma Mia’ will affect the entire lives of the islands’ residents, along with tourism and the real estate business, even after the filming is over. The British media are already speculating that Vis could turn from a relatively unknown island to a tourist mecca, just like the Greek island of Skopelos where the first part was filmed. The Times published a piece on Vis featuring statements of real estate agents, who explained that every house on the coast in the towns of Vis and Komiža gets off the market in a matter of days, mostly bought by well-off Brits and Norwegians.

An average Vis residence in mint condition will easily knock half a million euro out of your pocket. Anthony Stancomb Fulham, owner of a seaside renaissance palace in Vis town, said he and his wife bought the estate because they loved the peaceful atmosphere of the little fishermen’s town. Fulham stated that real estate on Vis used to be cheap as chips when they first arrived on the island; these days, houses in the historic centre go for €700.000. Once ‘Mamma Mia 2’ becomes a box office hit, even the rundown stone houses that currently go for €90.000 might double in value overnight.

The film crew will be staying on the island for six weeks; instead of Skopelos, Vis will now play the part of the Greek island Kalokairi where the story takes place. Vis was selected because it resembled its predecessor – it’s located far from the coast, accessible only by boat, and abundant in unspoilt nature.

Worldwide audiences discovering Vis might not be such a great thing after all. Remember what happened to Dubrovnik after Game of Thrones premiered in 2011? The city allegedly made €126 million between 2012 and 2015 thanks to the free promotion brought by the popular tv show, but an insane increase in the number of guests isn’t always a good outcome – especially when it comes to destinations that don’t have adequate infrastructure to cope with a massive number of visitors. Vis is already bursting at the seams, the entrance to the famous Stiniva beach blocked by dozens of boats; we wrote about the Blue Cave on the adjacent Biševo island getting suffocated by tourists on multiple occasion.

Bogoljub Mitraković, director of the Tourist Board of Komiža, said any kind of promotion is good for the island, but admitted he’s not sure if the whole situation will end up being a win for Vis. “It’s hard to say if this will turn out to be good or bad for us. Even now, in peak season, you have anywhere from 12.000 to 15.000 tourists staying in town that has a population of 2.000. We have natural water resources, but have been hit by a serious drought this year, so we’re thinking about introducing distilling devices. On the real estate front, we have an ongoing problem with unresolved ownership rights. There are houses with ownership split in up to 80 parts; that’s why there are large ruinous areas in the historic centre”, said Mitraković.

The island currently disposes with 4.000 beds in hotels and private accommodation, but all three hotels on Vis are insolvent. Sources say the Valamar group is interested in overtaking the entire hotel infrastructure, which could lead to a significant increase in accommodation quality on the island.

Judging by the example of Skopelos, we’re up for a substantial increase in arrivals, but we can expect a drastic increase in prices in restaurants and shops as well. It only remains to wait and see how the situation on Vis will play out.


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