October 29, 2018 – Filming in Croatia is a topic which has attracted a lot of attention in recent years, more so after the shooting of Game of Thrones. But is Croatia maximising its tourism potential from this niche?
Continuing our look at various aspects of the recent Days of Croatian Tourism conference on Hvar, the opening panel of the two-day event was centred on filming in Croatia and the relationship between the film industry. With global blockbusters such as Game of Thrones, Mamma Mia 2 and Star Wars filmed here in recent years, the film industry has a significant role to play in Croatian tourism, both in terms of revenue and promotion.
In a very nice touch to the film theme, there was free popcorn available on either side of Hvar’s historic Arsenal. The panel and panellists were advertised as follows:
Panel discussion “Film Industry and Tourism”Panel discussion “Film Industry and Tourism”Croatia has recently become a natural scenography of numerous blockbusters, series and reality shows. Why are they filmed in Croatia, what does it bring to locals and what is the situation in movie industry and tourism in other countries of the European Union and worldwide?
· Morocco: director of Moroccan Film Institute (Centre Cinématographique Marocain), Mohamed Sarim El Haq Fassi Fihri
· Hungary: director of National Film Office Miklós Taba
· Croatia: Nebojša Taraba (Novine)
· Croatia: Vanja Černjul (Marco Polo, Crazy Rich Asians)
· Croatia: Gordana Restović, director of Pula Film Festival
· Croatia: Ministry of Culture, State Secretary Krešimir Partl Moderator: Director of the Croatian Audiovisual Center, Daniel Rafaelić
It was an interesting panel, and the two contributions from Morocco and Hungary helped to put the filming in Croatia story into context. I had not realised, for example, that Morocco’s filming tradition dates back 100 years and includes an A-list portfolio, or that Budapest is now becoming known as the ‘Hollywood of Europe.’
According to the numbers provided, the rise of Budapest as a film location, now eclipsing Prague, is no accident. Some serious investment in supporting the film industry in Hungary, a trend which is increasing significantly with time.
Sadly there was no time for questions, and the panel did not really touch on the relationship of film and tourism once the production has been completed. It is an important subject for Croatia’s tourism and one which, in many ways, reflects to the approach to tourism in general.
Croatia’s core tourism business over the years has been centred on sun, sea and beach. With such great natural beauty, it is hard to fail, and tourists don’t need much promotion to be attracted to this one-dimensional tourism. But where is the additional offer on the coast, and what is there to do when it rains? Things are improving in this regard in recent years, and full credit to the Central Dalmatia Tourist Board, for example, who are working hard to diversity the tourism offer, and indeed Central Dalmatia is now the leading destination in Croatia for overnight stays in October, where beach tourism is not the main factor.
So too with filming in Croatia. To me at least, there are two tourism aspects to this story – the initial work done to attract the production company to shoot the movie, and enhancing the tourism experience for fans wanted to visit the locations afterwards. I don’t know enough about the former, but Croatia could REALLY improve the appeal of its spinoff tourism from filming in Croatia. At the moment, the strategy seems to be little more than the self-congratulatory ‘Game of Thrones was filmed in Croatia – so many people are coming to visit’. It reminds me a little of the tourism ‘strategy’ of ‘we have beaches so they will come.’
The following is intended – as always – as constructive criticism, but I am sure it will not be viewed as such in some quarters.
Filming in Croatia: the Tourism Promotion
The filming in Croatia of Game of Thrones has been huge for the country, and Dubrovnik in particular, with tens of thousands of tourists interested in visiting the real Kings Landing. Lots of private tours have sprung up,and this has become a nice business niche for several agencies. But how is Croatia promoting Game of Thrones tourism, and how does it compare with somewhere like New Zealand, which was also presented with a global blockbuster?
During the panel discussion, I decided to compare the two via the national tourist board websites, with a view to asking a question at the end of the discussion. Here is what I found.
Searching the Croatian National Tourist Board website for ‘Game of Thrones’ using the custom search box, I found several results, but none – not one – which had anything to do with the HBO series and Game of Thrones tourism. The top results were attractions in Rijeka, Zagorje and Karlovac.
The New Zealand Tourist Board website was an altogether different experience. Not only were there 379 relevant experiences, but a very helpful dropdown sidebar menu featuring locations, tours, article and even accommodation was all beautifully arranged. Plan your entire Lord of the Rings adventure to New Zealand from one website over a coffee. Game of Thrones fan heading to Croatia? Good luck!
Filming in Croatia: Can You Name the Movie Filmed Here Which Won 3 Oscars?
The thing is, Croatia has some incredible filming heritage, which almost nobody knows about, and which – with a little imagination – could be turned into a fantastic, 12-month opportunity. How many of you, for example, can name the movie filmed in Croatia which won no less than THREE Oscars?
You can learn all about the filming of Fiddler on the Roof in Lekenik, just 30 minutes from central Zagreb, in this TCN article. We took a trip out to Lekenik earlier this year to try and find the house where most of the action was filmed, and found it we did, but not due to any tourism signage. It was a forgotten non-descript house down a small road. Although there was some mention of Fiddler on the Roof in Croatian (that language most tourists do not speak), not a word about it on the English page of attractions of the local tourist board. And as pleasant as Lekenik is, it is not blessed with millions of reasons for tourists to visit. In fact, almost no mention of the fact that this globally-famous movie was filmed in Croatia. That is not to say that there is no tourism to the film location – there is, a private agency bringing groups of Jewish tourists.
Filming in Croatia – the Day Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland Filmed in Istria
I was just as surprised to learn that Kelly’s Heroes, Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland et al. was filmed in a village in Istria, and even more surprised to hear about a group of airsoft enthusiasts who reenacted the film last year. You can learn more about the 1969 original filming and the 2017 airsoft reenactment (video above) here.
Filming in Croatia – the Day Orson Welles Made a Movie on Hvar
And just a few metres from where the panel was taking place in Hvar Town, Orson Welles was busy in action just over 50 years ago, filming The Deep.
Filming in Croatia – Murder on the Orient Express
Looking for more filming in Croatia hooks? The most famous train murder in history took place between Slavonski Brod and Vinkovci in Slavonia – Agatha Christie’s classic, Murder on the Orient Express.
The list goes on. The potential is huge, and the benefits significant. Tourism and filming in Croatia? There is a lot of work to do.
Listening to Your Customer: Some Golden Opportunities
If those interested in boosting tourism and filming in Croatia niche have read this far, I leave you with another tip from the presentation which followed – Al Merschen’s overview of what Americans are looking for more tourism in Croatia. You can read a more detailed look at Merschen’s excellent presentation here. Game of Thrones sites are the 7th thing of interest, but there are also others in this list which have very little official organised promotion.
Wine and wineries, for example. There is no website with detailed information about Croatia’s incredibly wine story, 130 indigenous varieties, home of Zinfandel. It is why we started Total Croatia Wine to meet that need. And it is nice to be able to meet the tourism needs of the many visitors, as well as make a little money shipping Croatian wine to the USA and all over the EU. We have not done Total Croatia Olive OIl yet – we will leave that opportunity to others. But, as Merschen’s research shows, the demand is there.
Filming in Croatia, Croatian wine, Game of Thrones and olive oil -they will always be important factors in a strategy of accidental tourism, but Croatia could – and should – be doing so much better.
Or is it enough that the sun is shining?
To learn more about filming in Croatia, follow the dedicated TCN page.