Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Hobbits changing face of tourism

A tour of Hobbiton explains the tricks of the films, such as scale and perspective.
A tour of Hobbiton explains the tricks of the films, such as scale and perspective.

Middle-earth mania, strong marketing campaigns and economic growth are reasons for an increase in tourists from Asia and the Americas, says a new survey.

However, without the lure of major events such as the Rugby World Cup, visitor numbers from the United Kingdom and Africa have fallen in the past two years.

The latest International Visitor Survey, for the year ending September, was released yesterday by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

A spokeswoman for tourist operator AJ Hackett said they had noticed a big increase in the number of Asian tourists - "particularly from China".

"We definitely see more Chinese through than we have in the past."

Tourism New Zealand's general manager for corporate affairs, Chris Roberts, said Asia and the Americas had benefited from strong financial growth, resulting in more people being happy to spend their money on travel.

"Arrivals from America have grown during 2013, after the release of the first Hobbit movie and our focused marketing efforts with our 100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand campaign," he said.

Tourism NZ had targeted marketing to Asia, especially since direct air routes opened. The drop in travellers from Africa and Britain could be explained by the lack of a big event such as the Rugby World Cup, hosted in 2011, Mr Roberts said.

Australia continued to be New Zealand's largest tourism market, with Australian residents spending $2.3 billion while visiting New Zealand in the period.

Lincoln University tourism professor David Simmons said tourism was a "luxury good", so growth economies such as Asia's were likely to see an increase in travellers.

As well as the "current economic fortunes" in Britain, New Zealand was also competing with other tourist destinations such as Mauritius, the Seychelles and Hong Kong, he said. The entertainment industry had an influence on where travellers chose to visit, Professor Simmons said.

Movies like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have acted for New Zealand in the same way as Braveheart did for Scottish tourism.

"You get exposure to the landscapes and ideas and values," he said.

Sam McHardy, manager of Base Backpackers in Wellington, said the survey did not seem to reflect the UK customers coming through the hostel accommodation.

"I don't think it's changed at all, to be honest. Not that I've noticed."

Eilidh MacNicol from Scotland, who was staying at the backpackers, said: "I've always been a big fan of The Lord of the Rings, so that obviously helped [in my decision to come here]."

Maxwell Antliff, also from Scotland, said New Zealand was "a beautiful country".

"I've never been here before but since I've been here I've fallen in love with the place." APNZ

- NZ Herald

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