Lecture to look at Hobbiton boost
When visitor numbers at the Matamata i-Site totalled 367,000 in 2004, the town knew it had a major tourism boom on its hands. Matamata, known previously for its thoroughbred breeding industry, Wairere Falls and the Firth Tower Museum, found itself to be an international destination thanks to ‘‘a few holes in the side of a hill’’.
Matamata Public Relations Association manager Sue Whiting said it took a while for the town to get used to the idea of being popular, but she’s seen Matamata grow and learn to wear its Hobbiton label with pride, all thanks to Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies being partially filmed on Alexander’s farm just town.
Ms Whiting is one of three speakers at the first of the University of Waikato’s Winter Lecture Series, taking place tonight at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts on campus.
Ms Whiting will tell the story of how a town learned to embrace change and the challenges and benefits the influx of visitors has brought to the town.
‘‘I was there at the start, when we used to only get a handful of visitors stopping at our town each day, but in the last 10 years, nearly two million people have been to Matamata because of the film and that’s possibly injected $3 million into Matamata.’’
Hamilton & Waikato Tourism chief executive Kiri Goulter will also speak at the lecture, telling the bigger story of the wider impacts the films have brought and how tourism operators might capitalise on the increase in visitor numbers.
For the film buffs, Dr Carolyn Michelle from the Audience Research Unit at the University of Waikato will talk about her survey work relating to the movies.
The responses were many and varied she says, ‘‘from the Lord of the Rings fans who couldn’t wait to see the new film to the JRR Tolkien purists who thought he’d be turning in his grave’’.
Dr Michelle, with colleagues from the University of Waikato’s Screen and Media Studies programme and collaborators in Canada, the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark wanted to find out if people’s hopes were fulfilled and confirmed after seeing the movie, and how discussion, debate, marketing and promotion of a film shaped subsequent responses to it.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Result: Matamata Public Relations Association manager Sue Whiting is one of the speakers at the University of Waikato’s Winter Lecture Series.