Many jour­neys yet to come

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - REXINE HAWES AND MIKE BAIN

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.

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