You may have never heard of Dubrovnik, Croatia, but chances are you've seen it. The ancient city has been prominently featured in all seven seasons of Game of Thrones as the capitol of King's Landing. The appeal of seeing the real-world location of Cersei Lannister's walk of shame, or the hillside where the Red Keep stares down over the entire kingdom, has increased tourism by 10 percent in Croatia.
GoT-inspired tourism has helped pull Croatia out of a tough recession that lasted from 2009 to 2014, but it's possible to have too much of a good thing. Ivan Vukovic, who has led tours in the ancient city for 12 years, told MONEY:
We became too popular in the last couple of years, we became a victim to our own success...So many more Americans and Canadians come here because of the show. It is easier to learn history if you connect it to some scenes from the show as it has a lot of medieval history in common.
Known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, the city is encircled by ancient stone walls on a beautiful coastline, and was designated a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1979. In summer, tourists flood the city via cruise ships — nearly five hundred every year.
The extreme influx of visitors puts the city at risk of losing its World Heritage status. Mayor Mato Franković plans to cap the number of visitors at 4,000 per day — half of the 8,000 allowed by UNESCO — in the next two years. He acknowledges that cutting tourism may hurt his city's economy in the short term, but hopes the long-term gains make up for it:
We will lose money in the next two years — a million euros maybe by cutting the number of tourists — but in the future, we will gain much more. We deserve to be a top-quality destination.
The Mayor noted how easy it is for the ancient city to become crowded. He doesn't wish to ban tourists completely, but would rather redirect many of them to the attractions that surround Old Town, like the nearby Peljesac wine region or Elaphiti Islands. He also suggests visiting during less-crowded winter months, which are still pleasant and warm in Croatia.
I am not here to make people happy, but to make the quality of life [in this city] better. Some of the cruise lines will disagree with what I’m saying, but my main goal is to ensure quality for tourists and I cannot do it by the keeping the situation as it is.
If you're planning to visit Dubrovnik, it looks like time may be limited. It's not quite as strict as Cersei locking the gates to fend off approaching Dothraki, but seeing the real-world Flea Bottom is about to become a little trickier.