Northern Ireland may host a conference to discuss how to capitalise on the growing travel phenomenon of 'set-jetting,' the chief executive of Northern Ireland Screen has said.
Richard Williams, whose film-funding agency brought HBO fantasy TV series Game of Thrones here, spoke at the Northern Ireland Economic Conference yesterday. Locations around Northern Ireland where the fantasy series has been filmed since 2009 – series four is currently being shot – could take on a life of their own as holiday destinations for fans of the show.
NI Screen had already worked with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to host a touring Game of Thrones exhibition in Titanic Belfast in June.
Mr Williams told delegates at a workshop on tourism: "Mourne Mountains, Tullymore Forest, Mount Stewart, the Giant's Causeway... to most of us they are beauty spots and somewhere to go at the weekend.
"They are a tourist product but obviously from my point of view they are something slightly different. They are beauty spots and film locations."
Given that film fans can be prepared to travel and visit locations on so-called set-jetting expeditions – also known as 'location vacations' – he said: "It would be great to have a conference here on set-jetting. Sometimes this can be self-fulfilling, and if you announce that you are interested in these things, that's a momentum that self-delivers."
He said the tourist dividend can continue for years, if not decades after a TV series is actually filmed in a location, which could bode well for the province.
"Pretty much everything I know about Yorkshire comes from All Creatures Great and Small, and if you visit Connemara you will almost inevitably end up looking at the locations of The Quiet Man," the screen boss said.
While much international media coverage of Northern Ireland had been negative in 2013, thanks to protests over the flying of the Union flag and riots this summer, Mr Williams said the locations of Game of Thrones could be "a powerful, and an incredible bulwark against the realities of some of the more negative images".
But he added: "The scale and power of Game of Thrones did not happen by accident. Our head of marketing has worked immensely hard over the last year to ensure that Northern Ireland was kept in the story of Game of Thrones.
"We have been able to generate a wide range of stories that are really tourism stories told through the prism of Game of Thrones."
The latest big-screen production being made in Northern Ireland is Dracula, a new take on the vampire tale by Universal Pictures.
2009 The first year Game of Thrones was filmed in Northern Ireland
£121m Amount of money film and movie projects created here
10,000 Number of M&S staff trained by going to a 'Fashion Camp'