Lord of the ripoffs, Aussies accuse Kiwis

By Abby Gillies

'Hobbiton', in Matamata. Photo / Supplied
'Hobbiton', in Matamata. Photo / Supplied

Australian Lord of the Rings fans have accused Kiwis of exploiting tourists by overcharging for tours of the major movie attraction.

But a Waikato operator has hit back at the allegations, saying his business offers value for money.

Sydney residents Sean and Margot Smith recently spent 12 days in New Zealand.

Although delighted with most aspects of the trip they were shocked at the "ridiculous" cost of Lord of the Rings attractions, which they said stopped them and other tourists they had spoken to from shelling out for the tours.

"Despite being great fans of the Lord of the Rings, we thought it was ridiculous to charge $66 per adult to visit some doorways set in the side of a hill," they wrote in a letter to the New Zealand Herald.

The pair accused operators in Matamata and Rotorua who run tours linked to the popular films of charging exorbitant fees to "Mickey Mouse attractions".

"What quickly became evident was the greed of some tourism ventures, such as the Hobbiton location as well as most Rotorua locations."

Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours general manager Russell Alexander disputed the criticism, saying his tours were value for money and the pricing reflected the set-up and running costs.

"That's the cost we've got and we need to make it work. I'd like to charge $10 but I can't," he said.

The Waikato-based business runs group and private tours from $66-$340, as well as customised and overnight farm packages.

Mr Alexander said every day hundreds of people took the $66 guided tour to The Shire set used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Hobbit prequels.

With the first Hobbit film due to be released in December, the tours were more popular than ever, said Mr Alexander.

"There's been an incredible response. They're just loving it. I've had one person come back 12 times and another person seven times."

Tourism Industry Association spokeswoman Ann-Marie Johnson agreed the market dictated whether an attraction was good value.

"If tour operators are going to overcharge they're not going to get people through the door and clearly Hobbiton has been very popular since they opened."

"They're getting thousands of people through the door so we feel people are getting value for money."

On travel website TripAdvisor said most tourists who had visited Lord of the Rings attractions "raved about the experience", said Ms Johnson.

This was the first complaint she knew of, she said.

- APNZ

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