Matamata ready for Hobbit tourism boom

By Nikki Preston


The pub featured in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies will become the centre piece of Matamata's Hobbiton Tour.


More than 50 tradespeople and landscapers are working around the clock on the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour in Matamata to get the interior of the large Green Dragon Pub completed in time for the world premiere of Sir Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Wellington next Wednesday night.


Because from Thursday all eyes will turn to the small Waikato town of Matamata as dignitaries including Prime Minister John Key and international media are the first to set foot inside the Green Dragon Pub as part of the movie tour before descending on the town's main street for a party.


Details of the pub are being kept under wraps by movie maker Warner Brothers but, like the 44 hobbit holes, it is promised to be as authentic as possible.


 


 


The pub will be the first building on the set which tourists can enter and those who complete the tour will be treated to either a warm Hobbit-style English beer, cold amber ale, cider and ginger ale from ceramic beer steins.


Hobbiton Movie Set Tours general manager Russell Alexander had huge expectations for what the launch of the first of the three Hobbit movies would do for the tour operation. The business is a joint venture between him and Mr Jackson.


Mr Alexander said next week's launch would have more international media coverage than last year's Rugby World Cup and was bracing himself for an influx of Tolkien fans during the next three months.


From December the number of hosted tours would double to 22 a day and 32 more staff had been hired in anticipation.


Matamata Public Relations Association manager Sue Whiting, who also runs the iSite, was convinced the number of visitors coming into the town would surpass the 360,000 who arrived in 2004 at the peak of the Lord of the Rings hype.


She said the iSite's $200,000 transformation to a Gatehouse which would be officially opened next Thursday would be an attraction in its own right.


"We were a toilet and takeaway stop and now we are a must see destination. For a small town it's phenomenal, I guess it's regarded as a miracle that this happened to our small town."


Matamata-Piako mayor Hugh Vercoe said the movie would be a significant boost to the town's economy long term.


However Williams Jewellery partner Bret Williams was more sceptical about the high numbers of tourists predicted by the iSite and did not think it would bring in more people than Lord of the Rings did.


"I could be completely wrong, I hope so for the sake of the town I am, but I just don't get the feeling it will take off again and there will be a big rush."


Redoubt Bar and Eatery owner Jacob Henderson was cautiously optimistic and said local diners still represented about 80 per cent of his business.


"We haven't put extra staff on or done any structural changes, we are just ready to go for a busy night."


But Absolute Cafe owner Lisa Samuel had already noticed a big boost in her business and began opening on Sundays earlier this month when she realised the town was full and no one was open to serve coffee to the tourists waiting for the buses to take them to Hobbiton.


Number crunching


100,000 visitors to Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, up from 11,000 visitors in 2002


90 per cent of people doing the tour are overseas tourists


$200,000 Matamata's iSite transformation into a Gatehouse


$100m Warner Bros have spent promoting the Hobbit movie

- Hamilton News

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 25 Nov 2014 09:23:29 Processing Time: 513ms