Losses to New Zealand's tourism industry would be well into the millions if Sir Peter Jackson's Hobbit films are not filmed here, a tourism expert says.
Professor Simon Milne, director of Auckland University of Technology's Tourism Research Institute, said last night that while he believed losses to the country were "immeasurable", they would be significant.
"To lose an opportunity to plug in some major foreign dollars into the New Zealand economy would be devastating."
The Lord of the Rings trilogy created as many as 1500 jobs for actors and crew and up to 20,000 through catering, hospitality and transport contracts, he said.
The films put New Zealand "onto the radar of the rest of the world" and had many spin-offs which were hard to quantify.
"How do you measure the impact on our national brand? What kind of impact does the marketing of this movie have on just general consciousness about New Zealand and the fact that someone might go in and buy a bottle of New Zealand wine in a supermarket in France?
"It's not just about travelling to this country, it's about our brand overseas."
Statistics showed that one in 10 visitors admitted being influenced to come to New Zealand when The Lord of the Rings was being filmed and released.
"Even if it's 1 per cent, we have to realise that's 1 per cent of what is New Zealand's largest employer. The tourism industry is the country's largest employer and accounts for 8 per cent of GDP."
He said filming here also increased the likelihood of a local premiere, which could net as much as $10 million in extra tourism spending and $25 million in international exposure.By Beck Vass Email Beck