Movie fans keep Hobbiton’s popularity alive
‘‘Due to Russell's efforts, Matamata is now an internationally recognised visitor destination. ’’
Matamata Public Relations Association manager Sue Whiting said the ministry attributed the growth to Hobbit-related attractions.
Hobbiton started its tours 14 years ago with one van and driver running three tours a day, ending with an ice cream at the Hampton Dairy.
‘‘It truly was the beginning of an unexpected journey, for not only Russell and his team but for the entire community,’’ Whiting said.
Fast forward to the present day and Hobbiton Movie Set Tours chief operating officer Kirsten Madill said over the summer it operates 80-to-100 tours per day, using 10 buses and the thriving business employs 280 people.
In Whiting’s speech, she recalled ‘‘there were sceptics’’ but Hobbiton kept growing year-onyear.
‘‘Russell employed more staff and bought more buses and Matamata was transformed, more cafes opened, a new motel was built, and the town grew.’’
On November 29, 2012, Hobbiton opened a fully restored set including the Green Dragon Inn and the association unveiled its spectacular Hobbiton-themed i-SITE Gatehouse.
‘‘Due to Russell’s efforts, Matamata is now an internationally recognised visitor destination. Matamata is prosperous and the envy of many small towns around New Zealand,’’ she said.
Hobbiton’s success is evident in the list of awards won in 2016 which included NZ Tourism Industry Awards: Business Excellence Award – annual turnover more than $6m; the Tourism Marketing Campaign Award and the inaugural People’s Choice Award at the NZ Tourism Industry Awards.
It also won the Business Excellence Award at the MatamataPiako Business Awards and the Supreme, Business Marketing Award and Business Growth Award, at the Westpac Waikato Business Awards.
Hamilton and Waikato Tourism chief executive Jason Dawson. Sue Whiting