A Game of Thrones tourist dressed in costume walks along a beech tree-lined road known locally as the Dark Hedges in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which doubled for the Kings Road in series two.


by NADEEM BADSHAH MORE Indians are visiting Northern Ireland as they travel to their favourite locations from hit TV show Game of Thrones, tourism bosses have revealed. The country enjoyed visits from a record number of 350,000 fans from all over the world last year to see the Haunted Forest and the Kingsroad from the drama, among popular spots. Tourism NI figures show one in every six visitors were inspired because of Game of Thrones, with the final season of the HBO show concluding last week. And fans from India are flocking to Northern Ireland to walk in the footsteps of characters, including Jon Snow. The series was shown in that country via video streaming platform Hotstar at 6:30am every week, the same time as it aired in the US. A Tourism NI spokeswoman told Eastern Eye: “There is a real appetite for Game of Thrones in India. With a huge following of the show, fans are highly motivated to travel to Northern Ireland to visit the many filming locations there are in the region. “We are currently welcoming Indian visitors to Northern Ireland who are keen to explore the country often as part of a UK or all Ireland holiday. We find they tend to be groups of extended families as well as couples and incentive groups. Indian visitors are particularly interested in new destinations and new experiences. “Northern Ireland offers plenty of Game of Thrones-themed experiences which allow for the perfect Instagram moment.” There are around 26 filming locations from the fantasy drama that fans can explore. More than 23 visitor experiences have been developed, including coach tours and food experiences. A studio tour of the show is due to open next year at the Linen Mill Studios in County Down. Game of Thrones, which last week concluded its run of eight seasons after its TV debut in 2011, has sparked a craze in several Indian town and cities. The press information bureau of the Indian government even posted themed memes on Twitter from the programme to encourage citizens to vote in the elections. The memes included famous quotes such as Tyrion Lannister’s remarks, “A very small man can cast a very large shadow,” and Hodor’s “Not all heroes hold weapons, some just hodor.” Rajinder Dudrah, professor of cultural studies and creative industries at Birmingham City University, said the trend is partly down to TV and film tourism which is popular among Indians. He told Eastern Eye: “You have the Bollywood map – the tradition of the last 10-15 years of Indian families visiting places from their favourite films including Scotland, Wales, and Switzerland due to the burgeoning middle class. “Game of Thrones is following in that tradition of film tourism. “Northern Ireland is an untapped and unknown part of tourism for Indians. “India has woken up to digital media, streaming, Netflix, watching shows on these portals. Also, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon Prime. “If you do a quick Google search you will see fantastic memes [online picture-based jokes] from plots in the show from Indian politics, family and sporting rivalries, it has been ‘Indianised’.” He added: “It is larger-than-life storytelling, family melodrama, the battle for the throne, powerful and not so powerful families, like a dark Bollywood melodrama. “The dragons, the mythic creatures, the dead and undead, there is a long tradition of mythic tales in India. “Stories like the Mahabharata and those about gods have TV dramas based on them. It is a parallel universe Indians are used to, there is a crossover and they are buying into it. “It is a global phenomenon.” The show’s theme song has been played by Mumbai’s street orchestras while themed viewing parties have been held for the final episodes in Delhi, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Dehradun and cities in West Bengal. Gurasees Singh, owner of Xtreme Sports Bar and Grill in Chandigarh, said: “I am a big fan of Game of Thrones and lots of people in my city are crazy about the show too. “Mondays are generally very dull for our business. But we organise these screenings in the evenings at 6pm and there’s a lot of office crowd coming in. Our business gets a lot of help.” The phenomenon has also crossed over to India’s other passion, cricket. Virat Kohli, who is set to lead the national team at the ICC Cricket World Cup in England, revealed he calls teammate Cheteshwar Pujara White Walker, zombie-like creatures in the show who are deadly in nature and have special abilities.