Movie fans keep Hob­biton’s pop­u­lar­ity alive

Matamata Chronicle - - Out & About - REXINE HAWES AND MIKE BAIN

‘‘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

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