Data shows leap in spending for Matamata region as fans flock to Hobbiton attraction.

The Hobbit film trilogy has catalysed a spending surge in the Matamata region by tourists from the likes of Australia, Germany, United Kingdom and North America.

The amount spent in the area by those tourists has risen at a greater magnitude over the past five years, relative to 2009 spending, than in any other region in New Zealand.

This trend is revealed in a visualisation of Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment information created by Wellington's Dragonfly Data Science and published on Herald Insights, a new data journalism website.

The digital interactive shows the surge in spending in the Matamata-Piako area from European, English, Australian and North American tourists over the past five years, relative to their 2009 spending.


In terms of raw figures, Australians spent $12.1 million in the area during the 12 months to March 2014, up 8.5 per cent on the year before. That compared to $3.7 million in the year to March 2009.

German visitors spent less than a million dollars in the region in 2009. This had jumped to $2.7 million during the 12 months to March 2014, according to MBIE estimates.

Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, near Matamata, offers visitors the chance to peruse 44 hobbit holes and a working pub where parts of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy was shot.

Hobbiton's general manager Russell Alexander said the attraction was the only reason international tourists were coming to Matamata.

"That sounds blunt and arrogant but it's the truth," he said.

The final movie of the three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's novel was released last December and was expected to provide a further boost to New Zealand tourism.

The Government, late last year, estimated that the value of the Hobbit films to local tourism was anywhere between $50 million and $500 million per year.

It builds on the success of the three Lord of the Rings movies, which were credited with making New Zealand a world leader in "film tourism".


Alexander said the growth in visitors to Hobbiton was "massive".

About 360,000 people visited Hobbiton in the year to March, up from 232,000 in the same period in 2014 and 33,000 in 2011.

The venture had hired 92 new staff in the past three months and now employs more than 200 workers.

Alexander didn't believe Hobbiton's popularity would wane with time given the trilogy had run its course.

"It's going to grow. The movies were over a year ago and we don't see it [visitor numbers] dropping off," he said.

Although the magnitude of growth over the past half a decade is stark, the $142 million spent in Matamata-Piako in the 12 months to March 2014 is only a tiny proportion of the $17.2 billion spent by both domestic and international tourists here last year.


Hamilton and Waikato Tourism boss Kiri Goulter said the Hobbiton set had been a key factor in the increases in international visitor statistics and expenditure for the Hamilton & Waikato region and the Matamata Piako district.

"The profile Hobbiton Movie Set and the region has received ... has allowed us to showcase our Middle-earth experiences and landscapes, as well as the wider visitor proposition in the area including Waitomo Caves, Raglan and Hamilton city experiences such as Hamilton Gardens, on the international stage on an unprecedented scale," she said.