Harry Potter offers magical boost to British tourism


Edinburgh draws Harry Potter fans worldwide, boosting the British economy with billions in global sales of Potter-related items. Photo: AFP

Sam Thorne guides Harry Potter fans through the gothic streets of Edinburgh, where controversial author JK Rowling dreamt up the boy wizard more than three decades ago.

The Scottish capital attracts lovers of the bespectacled schoolboy from across the world, boosting the British economy and helping generate billions of pounds in global sales of Potter-related offerings.

"Here you will encounter the tomb of Voldemort," Thorne tells his tour group, in reference to the villainous dark lord of magic who murdered Potter's parents when he was a baby.

The tour, numbering some 20 fans, snakes through Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery where some gravestones bear names similar to several characters, although Rowling - much criticised for her views on transgender rights - has not admitted any link.

American Kate Merson, 43, works in Edinburgh and is on the walk with her husband and two children, seeking to satisfy her nine-year-old's obsession with Potter - and her desire to explore the magical world of Hogwarts.

'Busier and crazier'

Rowling wrote seven Potter books which were published between 1997 and 2007, spawning eight blockbuster movies in a multi-billion-dollar global phenomenon.

Fans remain captivated by Edinburgh, whose sights and scenes were the inspiration for fantastical characters and locations.

"It's only gotten busier and busier and crazier and crazier. There's more people coming in - who are all asking for tours as well," said Thorne, 33.

His "Potter Trail" lasts one-and-a-half hours and takes several dozen tourists across the city's pretty streets. His recommended tour donation is £20 (RM119) per person.

Thorne's popular guided walk ends on the colourful Instagram-friendly Victoria Street ... in front of two heaving Potter merchandise shops thronged by muggles, or non-wizards.

Briya Maru, a 27-year-old Indian who lives in Toronto, queues in the driving rain in front of one of the shops, waiting to splurge cash on Potter souvenirs.

"It was symbolic for me to get them from here, the Harry Potter city," said Maru , adding she was searching for "exclusive" artefacts.

Manager Monica Alsina says business is brisk at her 'Enchanted Galaxy' shop, where punters can buy a "magic wand" for £40 (RM239) and the most expensive item - a limited-edition character sculpture - costs £650 (RM3,878).

'Tourism engine'

"The shop has been doing great. Harry Potter is just getting more and more popular," said Alsina.

There have been no new books or films - but the "Potterverse" has in recent years expanded to include a hit video game, a play in London's West End and the Fantastic Beasts film franchise, while a television series is also in the works.

"Harry Potter is a fantastic engine for tourism in Scotland," said Jenni Steele, spokeswoman for tourism agency VisitScotland.

Fans of the extremely popular franchise also flock to filming destinations in England, including London and surrounding areas, the Cotswolds and York.

Devotees also tend to visit "The Making of Harry Potter" film-studio park, which has attracted 19 million visitors since it opened in 2012.

Tickets for the attraction close to London cost a minimum of £53 (RM316) each and total revenues have already passed one billion dollars (approximately RM4.7bil).

But in recent years, Pottermania has been overshadowed by Rowling's views, including her belief that biological sex is immutable. She denies being transphobic.

In Edinburgh, her views have been difficult for some.

"It's been a tough time to be a Harry Potter fan as a result of her comments, chiefly because one of the reasons why the wizarding world meant so much to so many people is because Harry was seen as being an outsider," said Thorne.

"For people who really felt that, Harry Potter was a form of escapism for them, a place where they could feel accepted -- it does feel like a betrayal."

Yet the best-selling franchise continues to generate huge sales.

"Adults who grew up with it now show it to their children. It's a fandom that only gets bigger," said Alsina. - AFP

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Harry Potter , tour , tourism , Edinburgh , book series


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