The ‘reel’ world of Croatian film tourism

The ‘reel’ world of Croatian film tourism

 Enter a world where historic cobblestone alleys are transformed into movie sets and the Adriatic Sea holds the aspirations of creative filmmakers – welcome to the fascinating world of Croatian film and film tourism.

The Croatia’s film industry is an immersive tapestry that combines artistic prowess and wild beauty, nestled within stunning scenery. This dynamic country provides a riveting environment for both domestic and foreign films. Upon entering the gates of Dubrovnik’s Old City, one is completely transported and immersed in cobbled streets and walls that stretch upwards in every direction. Taken back to the world of merchants, vendors, and pedestrians, this staired and hilled inner city is completely impassable with vehicles – only adding to its historic mystique.

The rugged mountainous landscapes, tiny villages, and turquoise waters of this country have been used to transport viewers to 15th century fictive country of Westeros, Donna Sheridan’s paradise on the island of Kalokairi in common era, and 22nd century in Pandora. It is evident why Croatia has been the starting locations for numerous Hollywood major motion pictures and TV series.

Economic Development

This perfect combination of beauty and consistently warm climate has lent itself to the film industry for the years since the Yugoslav wars, opening the rather young nation to a new phenomenon – film tourism. Film tourism, or movie induced tourism, beckons travelers to embark on a quest to explore the very locations that have mesmerized them on screen.

Croatia’s ethereal beauty and rich historical heritage have caught the eye of many renowned filmmakers and producers, making it a sought-after destination for both Hollywood blockbusters and international productions. This has not only been a major contributor to the increase in tourist visits to Croatia but can also be attributed to their economic development.

In the first 6 months of 2021, Croatia was host to over 20 international productions (The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, Bliss, and The Weekend Away among the most notable). In March of 2022, the Dubrovnik Times reported the city had become the world’s third highest earner from film tourism, behind London, UK (Harry Potter) and Waikato, New Zealand (Lord of the Rings). In the five-year span between 2013 and 2018, Game of Thrones alone pulled in about $203 million for the city of Dubrovnik, according to a University of Zadar investigation.

Croatia’s culture impact

“I had this image of Croatia as a difficult place to live. After hearing what it was like for my grandparents, and how hard it was to leave, I pictured Croatia as a tough country,” said Bronte Macan, a descendant of Croatian people who immigrated to Australia before the Yugoslav wars began.

Macan said she always had an interesting relationship with Croatia knowing the pride her father and aunts have for their Croatian heritage but also knowing what her grandparents had endured to evacuate.

“I don’t think I would have gone to Croatia if not for my familial connections there. But after a family trip to Croatia in 2013, I really wanted to keep exploring. One of my aunties visits Croatia every year, and hearing her stories ignited a passion with me for the country,” she said.

After 10 years, Macan returned to Croatia, “I was able to visit Rovinj, which is one of the western-most cities in Croatia, and was a place I hadn’t yet travelled to. Rovinj is a small city, with a gorgeous church the main sight on the island, as well as beautiful beaches and fresh seafood. Seeing Rovinj allowed me to see how perfect Croatia is as a film tourism destination,” she said.

Though she is not a fan of Game of Thrones, Macan saw the effects this show took on the cities where they were filmed. “I’ve been fortunate enough to visit both Split and Dubrovnik, both are picturesque locations,” she said, “I know when I visited Split in 2013 at the start of summer it was moderately busy, but very quiet compared to cities in Italy I’d just visited. The next time I was in Split, years later, it was so busy in the tourism off-season,” she continued.

“Tourism first ignites a passion or interest in people to visit a new place, like Croatia, and then once they visit, they are shown an entirely new world. I think the role that film tourism plays is therefore kind of the ‘first step’ in that it first encourages people to visit a new place, so they can experience the culture and history of the country as well,” she said.

Macan believes the impact of film tourism on the Croatian economy and recognition has played a major role in making this young nation stand out but believes tourists should not only prioritize film.


Film tourism has also garnered attention from international filmmakers, both large and small, as the beauty of Croatia has been mixed with the Hollywood magic to make these incredible places into other worlds; both real and imagined. Though, this presents a host of new problems for domestic film producers.

Boris T. Matić is a film producer, a multi-award-winning film maker, and the founder and director of Zagreb Film Festival. For the last 30 years Matić worked in film production through Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Slovenia. He expressed his frustration and his appreciation with the presence of Hollywood in the Balkans.

“There is a cash rebate production incentive in Croatia,” he explained, “Its great for Hollywood and for Croatia but it makes it difficult for domestic producers because of our budget limitations,” he continued.

‘Filming in Croatia’ is a department within the Croatian Audiovisual Centre which manages the film incentive rebates. The programme works to promote Croatia internationally to filmmakers by providing 25% cash rebate plus an additional 5% for shooting in regions with “below average development” to filmmakers who apply. On a first come-first serve basis the applications are evaluated by representatives from the ministry of culture, Croatian Producers Association, Ministry of Finance, and the Croatian Audiovisual Centre.

Strain on indie filmmakers

In visiting the cities and countryside where filmmakers have continually set their scenes, one can see the direct impact of Hollywood on the tourism industries. Not only has this affected the economy of the country which inhabits these beautiful landscapes, but it has affected the ability of indie filmmakers. Matić explains that even with the ‘Filming in Croatia’ rebate its often still difficult for indie producers to create a full feature or short production.

“Because there are a lot of foreign producers coming with money, their base salaries for film crew and assistants are much higher; they are able to pay better and that makes it difficult for locals who can’t afford to pay their crew that well.”

He continued by stating that “it used to be difficult to find film workers, nowadays there are people who learn how to do crew work as their (professional) trade, which makes them just too expensive for us to hire.”

Though both domestic and foreign producers can apply for the rebate programme, there are numerous conditions that limited an applicant’s eligibility, including the hiring of Croatian crew members.

Experience Croatia not just sets.

Macan expressed her love for this special country and believes it to be somewhere everyone should visit, though there is more to Croatia than a film location. “I think everyone who visits Croatia should try and go to a traditional Croatian dance, those events are amazing; full of colour, food, drink and traditional clothes that you can’t see anywhere else in the world,” she concluded.

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