THE production of HBO’s landmark television series Game of Thrones generated an estimated £251 million for the Northern Ireland economy, a new report from Tourism NI suggests.
The figure is contained in a new publication chronicling the impact of the series here, three years after filming ended in 2018.
It comes as the new £36.5m legacy studio tour prepares to open in Banbridge.
Work is at advanced stage on Linen Mill Studios, a key site during the ten-year production of Game of Thrones in the north.
A recruitment drive is ongoing, with the next event taking place at the Southern Regional College in Newry on Saturday.
The project, owned by the John Hogg Group, is under development at the company’s 25-acre site outside Banbridge. A park and ride in the town is also under development to ferry tourists to the attraction.
Linen Mill Studios’ directors indicated in March 2021 that the 110,000 sq ft interactive experience could open in late summer, but seven months on, the studio tour’s owners have yet to confirm the opening date.
Most of the funding for the project has been sourced from the John Hogg Group itself and the Stephens family, who own one of the largest private investment banks in the USA.
A recent company report signed off by John Hogg’s directors outlined their concerns the Covid-19 pandemic could have on visitor numbers for the studio tour.
The business plan for the project originally forecast around 600,000 visitors each year, making it the north’s third most popular tourism attraction after the Giant’s and Titanic Belfast.
However, the directors revealed that debt funding had been structured in such a way to protect cash flow in the first two years if visitor numbers suffer from the prolonged impact of Covid-19 on overseas travel.
The past year saw Linen Mill Studios source a £3.5m five-year loan from Whiterock Capital Partners and a £10m two-year loan from Barclays.
While uncertainty hangs over the short-term picture for overseas visitors to Ireland, Tourism Ireland’s central marketing director, Mark Henry, said the popularity of Game of Thrones has provided “a fantastic opportunity” for the tourism body to leverage Northern Ireland’s connection with the series.
“As overseas tourism restarts, Tourism Ireland will continue to highlight Northern Ireland around the world, reminding people that Northern Ireland is ‘Game of Thrones Territory’.
“We will also harness the opportunities presented by the new Game of Thrones Studio Tour at the Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge.
“Our aim is to spike fans curiosity about the landscapes and locations featured in the series and inspire them to come and explore them for themselves.”