Game of Thrones brings estimated £150m to Northern Ireland

By Sara Girvin
BBC News NI north east reporter

image copyrightHBO/Sky Atlantic
image captionThe Dark Hedges outside Ballymoney provided the backdrop to this Game of Thrones scene

Season Six may have just ended, but Game of Thrones is still big business for Northern Ireland - its principal filming location.

NI Screen, which helps fund the series, estimates it has brought almost £150m into the local economy since production began in 2010.

The worldwide hit fantasy drama receives generous tax breaks to film in Northern Ireland.

However, NI Screen insists the returns are high.

image captionTourists visiting the Dark Hedges in County Antrim

Chief Executive Richard Williams said: "In terms of jobs and services here, we're just creeping up to £150 million across the six seasons.

"To be very clear about that, that is spent on people who live here and on services that are provided by people here."

Tourism NI also believes the industry is getting a boost from Game of Thrones visitors who want to see landmarks from the show in reality.

image copyrightHBO/Sky Atlantic
image captionA scene filmed at Ballintoy Harbour on the north coast

The marketing body is currently collating figures to establish just how much fans of the show spend in Northern Ireland.

Judith Webb, Tourism NI's Experience Development Officer, said: "We can see already that businesses are growing on the back of the Game of Thrones series.

"Two years ago, there were three operators promoting Game of Thrones experiences and now we've over 25 with more in the pipeline.

image copyrightHBO/Sky Atlantic
image captionThe worldwide hit fantasy drama receives generous tax breaks to film in Northern Ireland

"Those businesses are also reporting that business has doubled each year upon year which is just tremendous.

"People come for Game of Thrones and stay for Northern Ireland."

Like every TV show, Game of Thrones will eventually come to an end.

image captionTourism NI hopes to capitalise on the interest from fans of the drama

So what happens when it wraps up?

Richard Williams said: "There are people in China who don't know where Northern Ireland is, but they know Titanic and they know Game of Thrones, and we need to capitalise on that.

"Game of Thrones will leave us with two really substantial legacies.

image captionTourists taking part in the 'Game of Thrones Experience'

"From my point of view, the most substantial one is the infrastructure - the film studios.

"On the other side of it, there is a huge legacy piece in terms of the awareness Game of Thrones has driven for Northern Ireland and importantly right across the globe."

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