Hob­bit tourism top for­eign cash source

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in­Welling­ton

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.

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