Harry Potter Still Enchants Tourists in the UK

Published on 06/06/2024 at 12:16

In Edinburgh, tourists patiently wait outside a Harry Potter shop on Victoria Street, which is said to have inspired the famous Diagon Alley from the series.

Fans of the fantasy saga flock from all corners of the globe to Scotland and the UK, generating billions of pounds in revenue. This lucrative trend continues to grow nearly 30 years after the release of the first volumes.

“Ready, and say ‘fabulo Rosso!’,” exclaims Sam Thorne, guide of the “The Potter Trail” tour to around twenty fans of the famous young wizard. They all repeat the spell while waving an improvised magic wand before continuing their exploration of Edinburgh. Despite the controversial views of its author, JK Rowling, fans of the fantasy saga continue to flock to Scotland and the UK, generating billions of pounds in revenue which continues to grow nearly 30 years after the release of the first volumes.

“Here, you will encounter Voldemort’s tomb…,” continues the guide, in front of his group of tourists of all ages. They wander through the Greyfriars cemetery, where the graves bear names similar to several characters created by JK Rowling, even though she has never admitted to being inspired by them.

Kate Merson, 43, is part of the tour with her husband and two children. She came to Edinburgh for work, but like many Americans, she takes the opportunity to explore her Scottish roots and satisfy her nine-year-old daughter’s “Pottermania”. At 20 pounds (23 euros) per person and with dozens of participants each time, these hour-and-a-half guided tours through the gothic streets of the Scottish capital bring in significant revenue.

The “Potter Trail” led by Sam Thorne ends on the colorful and highly photographed Victoria Street in front of… two merchandise shops.

“A Fantastic Engine for Tourism”

Briya Maru, a 27-year-old Indian living in Toronto, waits in line in the rain outside one of the shops, alongside around fifteen other fans, wallets open. Even though she admits she can find all kinds of merchandise in Toronto, “it was symbolic for me to buy it here, in the city of Harry Potter”, where JK Rowling wrote the saga that made her a billionaire.

In the Enchanted Galaxy store, you can expect to pay at least 40 pounds (47 euros) for a “magic” plastic wand and 650 pounds (763 euros) for a limited edition sculpture of a character from the films. “The shop is doing well, Harry Potter is becoming increasingly popular,” observes manager Monica Alsina, who refuses to disclose her turnover.

Although there are no new movies or books, interest has been fueled in recent years by a successful video game, a theater play now a classic in London’s “West End”, and the film “Fantastic Beasts,” a satellite story of the saga, as well as an upcoming TV series. And most importantly, the fanbase is growing: the first generation is now introducing the books to their children,” continues Monica Alsina.

“Harry Potter is a fantastic engine for tourism in Scotland,” explains Jenni Steele from the Visit Scotland promotion agency. Tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors in Scotland, contributing around 4 billion pounds annually to the local economy.

JK Rowling, a Controversial Author

Despite controversies surrounding JK Rowling’s views on transgender issues – which the author denies – she has faced criticism and disapproval from the main stars of the saga’s films. However, this has not affected sales. Sam Thorne speaks of “betrayal” because the Harry Potter universe was perceived as welcoming to those who feel different, “while transgender people are already one of the most stigmatized communities.”

However, there has been no negative impact on tour bookings. “We do not agree with her but do not see any impact” on sales,” adds Monica Alsina.

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