Many journeys yet to come
Central Waikato’s Hobbiton Movie Set has the potential to draw in tourists for another half century - or more.
Hamilton and Waikato Tourism Chief Executive Jason Dawson was confident of the tourist attraction’s longevity.
He compared Hobbiton, near Matamata, to Salzburg in Austria, the location for the musical film, The Sound of Music, released in 1965.
A new generation of fans absorbed by the musical and the performances of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer continued to visit Salzburg today.
‘‘The streets of Salzburg have remained a magnet for several generations of tourists to Austria,’’ said Dawson.
He said many generations of movie fans had walked the same streets which saw The Sound of Music characters Maria and the von Trapp children run along and had tried to picnic on the nearby hills which were used classic film.
He forecast the same trend for Matamata, the gateway to Hobbiton, where fans of the movies would travel from around the world to see the set for at least 50 more years.
Dawson holds the management of Hobbiton as an example to other tourism operators in the Waikato.
‘‘The Alexander family has developed the experience with the Green Dragon Inn, the banquet for the and night tours, and now building a retail shop on site.’’
Dawson said the movie set’s longevity also depended on how well Matamata embraced the opportunity in terms of its role as the gateway to the attraction, and how the district worked to leverage from its popularity.
The forecast for Hobbiton’s future comes as its managing director, Russell Alexander, was again acknowledged for his work at the thriving tourism centre.
Matamata Public Relations Association presented him with the Key to the City for his work turning the town into an international tourist destination.
Alexander thought ‘‘it was pretty cool’’ and nice to be recognised.
The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment estimated international tourism expenditure in Matamata-Piako had grown from $11m in the year ending March 2009 to $37m in the year ending March 2014.