Harry Potter, the magic potion for tourism in the United Kingdom

A view of Victoria Street in Edinburgh, believed to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books.

Photography: AFP – Andy Buchanan

Harry Potter Way guide Sam Thorne takes care of about two dozen of the famous young wizard’s followers on an alternative visit to Edinburgh, along the fictional character’s paths through the Scottish city.

Fans of the saga come from all over the world to Scotland and the UK, generating billions of pounds in revenue, a profit that continues to grow almost 30 years after JK Rowling’s first volumes were published.

“Here you will find the grave of Voldemort,” the series’ “bad guy,” the guide follows in front of his group of tourists of all ages.

The group passes through Greyfriars Cemetery, where the graves bear names similar to those of several characters created by JK Rowling, although the author has never confirmed that she was inspired by them.

Kate Merson, 43, is participating in the visit with her husband and two children. He has come to Edinburgh for professional reasons, but like many Americans, is taking the opportunity to explore his Scottish roots and enjoy his nine-year-old daughter’s “Buttermania”.

With a fee of £20 ($25.50) per person, and a dozen participants at a time, these hour-and-a-half guided tours through the Gothic streets of the Scottish capital are well worth the money.

“increasing popularity”

The Potter Trail, guided by Sam Thorne, ends on the much-photographed multi-coloured Victoria Street, in front of two souvenir shops.

Priya Maru, a 27-year-old Indian living in the Canadian city of Toronto, lines up in the rain in front of one, along with fifteen other fans, willing to spend whatever it takes.

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Although she admits she can find all kinds of derivative products in Toronto, she points out that for her “it was a symbol to buy it here, in Harry Potter Town,” where JK Rowling wrote the saga that made her a billionaire.

At one store, called Enchanted Galaxy, a plastic “magic” wand costs £40 (US$51) and a limited-edition figurine of a character from the films costs £650 (US$831).

“Commerce is going well, and Harry Potter is increasingly popular,” says head of merchandising Monica Alsina, who declines to reveal the size of the company’s business.

Although there have been no new Harry Potter films or books, in recent years the fantasy series has been kept true to form with a hit video game, a stage play set in London, and the film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find.” “Them”, a story connected to the saga, while waiting for a TV series in preparation.

“Scotland’s tourism engine”

“Harry Potter is a fantastic driver of tourism in Scotland,” Jenny Steele, of promotion agency Visit Scotland, told AFP. Tourism contributes £4 billion ($5,113 million) to the Scottish economy annually.

But fans of the young wizard are also flocking to England, to places like York, the Cotswolds, Oxford and London to discover the filming locations.

A Warner Studios attraction, in terms of photography, has been visited by 19 million people since its opening twelve years ago, allowing it to exceed $1 billion in revenue.

The controversy over comments JK Rowling deemed transphobic has not affected sales at the moment.

Sam Thorne talks about “betrayal”, because the world of Harry Potter was seen as “welcoming to those who feel different”.

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“We don’t agree with that but we don’t see any impact” on sales, says Monica Alsina.

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