Just as the tourist season in Dubrovnik was better than expected so was the celebrity season. From Hollywood A liners, rock stars and super models, well a whole bunch of Victoria Secret models. We had a break from not only tourism last year but also the glitterati.
So what does a celebrity endorsement mean? And does Dubrovnik really need the extra publicity?
Without doubt one of the greatest motivators for tourism in Dubrovnik over the past period has been Game of Thrones. Would I personally travel to a country because it had been the digitally altered backdrop of a mythical city in a series that was purely fantasy? Obviously not. However, the power, loyalty and recognition that the series had was fascinating.
I was once talking to a young waiter in Central Park, New York and when he asked me where I was from and I said Dubrovnik he looked at me with a blank expression. I then saw his brain whirl and he blurted “King’s Landing…you live in King’s Landing.”
At first I was angry that he knew Dubrovnik only as the set of a TV show, but then I thought it’s better that he knows of us than has never heard of us. He just might come here to see the Red Keep or the Walk of Shame and then the history and culture just might interest him. We should just think of GOT as a key that might open the doors of a younger generation. And the same is true of celebrity endorsement. And I use the word endorsement on purpose.
If the rich and famous wanted to hide they would
Now there are clearly a few myths about the rich and famous, one is that they hate the press, untrue (well, in 90 percent of the cases). Very often the celebs will let the press know where and when they will be. “She’ll be on her balcony from 3:00 to 3:15pm today,” was one phone call I received about a diva singer a few years ago.
And if they don’t call the press directly they’ll fill their social media with photos, basically saying “I’m here come and get me.” It’s just a game and both sides are playing. If they really wanted to be incognito, then they would. I know of two mega Hollywood stars who were in Dubrovnik this summer and demanded complete privacy, and yes they got it.
So why do celebrities mean so much for a destination? Firstly, they do. In the same way that I wouldn’t visit the set of a TV show I also wouldn’t go somewhere just because the rich and famous go there, but that’s me. There are, however, millions and millions not in my camp.
So, every time a celeb is spotted and snapped in Dubrovnik I receive a plethora of messages from the UK, “look who’s in your city,” with an attached article from The Daily Mail or The Express. So there is another positive, it’s free publicity, and not only free publicity but positive publicity. Afghanistan is getting plenty of publicity at the moment, but not the kind it wants.
Is there any such thing as bad publicity?
A full-page advert in The Daily Mail will probably cost you around £50,000. Dubrovnik has featured half a dozen times in the last two months, two English footballers, Harrison Ford, Sir Bob Geldof, Demi Moore, Michael Jordan, as well as a handful of reality stars. That all adds up financially. And they weren’t writing anything negative. Fame is attractive and enticing. By far the most read articles on my English language website this summer have featured celebrities. Like it or not, fame sells.
I have been in the situation quite a few times when a tourist has said to me that “Yes, Dubrovnik first really caught our eye when we saw that Tom Cruise had been here.” The name Tom Cruise isn’t important, but the fact was that a celebrity had caused them to come to Dubrovnik. Sometimes this is because of the endorsement, “If Beyoncé goes there it must be great,” and sometimes it's just because Dubrovnik was featured in the New York Times as Richard Gere was on the Stradun. Whichever, it’s a win/win situation.
Again, would I go to an island in Greece just because it is a celebrity magnet, hell no! But does that mean the shine of celebrities should be hidden in Dubrovnik, hell no! Just like my waiter friend in Central Park, the key is making people aware, what they do with that knowledge is up to them.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to