Hobbit tourism top foreign cash source
In New Zealand there are twice as many cows as people, but it’s the hobbits that are really making hay.
According to figures released on Wednesday, tourism has overtaken dairy as the nation’s top earner of overseas dollars. And tourism officials say the success of the fantasy movie trilogy TheHobbit has helped.
The dairy industry is struggling to recover from a slump in prices, while a record 3.4 million visitors arrived in New Zealand in the year ending September. The country is particularly popular among tourists from Australia, China and the United States.
Spending by international tourists was up by 20 percent in the year ending March when compared with the previous year, according to Statistics New Zealand. That follows a 17 percent rise the year before.
Kevin Bowler, the chief executive of Tourism New Zealand, said people were drawn toNewZealand by its spectacular landscapes and its outdoor lifestyle. The Hobbit movies showcased some of that scenery and were heavily marketed overseas.
“The result was a heck of a lot of interest in New Zealand,” he said.
One survey showed 16 percent of tourists cited the movies as influential in their initial interest in New Zealand.
Directed by Peter Jackson, The Hobbit trilogy built on the success of his earlier, critically acclaimed trilogy, The Lordof the Rings. The six movies earned a total of nearly $6 billion at the box office.
Bowler said planned increases in flights from the US and growing economies in Asia bode well for the future. The challenge, he said, would be providing enough accommodationand ensuring tourists can savor their individual experiences.
But while tourism is booming, income from dairy products has fallen by22 percent over the past two years, StatisticsNewZealand says.
NewZealanders have long been outnumbered by their farm animals. With a population of 4.7 million people, the nation is also home to 29 million sheep and 10 million cows. And zero hobbits, of course, unless you count those on the big screen.
Tourists take photos during a tour of TheHobbit movie set near Matamata, New Zealand.