Bilbo Baggins boosts tourism to New Zealand

Ahead of the London première of the final movie in 'The Hobbit' Trilogy – 'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' – New Zealand's tourism chief reveals the impact the Trilogy has had on the country.

Over 40 million international tourists choose their destination largely because of a film shot in that particular country 

New Zealand has seen an unprecedented increase in the flow of fans and tourists to the country since filming wrapped on the The Hobbit Trilogy, with more tourists than ever before citing the popular films as an influencing factor when choosing New Zealand as a holiday destination.

‘Set-jetting’ – holidaying in countries and locations where films are shot – is not a new phenomenon. Jaws inspired a generation of movie fans to visit Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts in 1975 and even Albuquerque, New Mexico, has seen a flood of visitors since Breaking Bad hit TV screens around the world. Around 40 million international tourists chose their destination in 2012 largely because they saw a film shot in the country, according to research by Tourism Competitive Intelligence. 

But rarely has a country seen as significant a boost to its tourism thanks to a movie brand. Dubbed the ‘real Middle-earth’, New Zealand has seen a significant growth in tourism thanks to Bilbo Baggins and friends. For the period July 2013 to June 2014, 13 per cent of international holiday visitors said that The Hobbit Trilogy movies were a factor in influencing their Initial interest in New Zealand.

Filmed entirely in New Zealand, the locations cover both the North and South Islands – from the rivers of Marlborough to the mountains of Mount Cook and the back country of Queenstown and Paradise – all of which can be easily experienced by visitors. 

Research completed earlier in 2014 by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research found that the marketing of New Zealand as Middle-earth has had significant and quantifiable impact on growth in visitor arrivals from Western Markets. It shows that in 2013, in New Zealand's core long-haul Western visitor markets, growth in arrivals outstripped the markets' economic recovery and growth in outbound tourism, and that New Zealand attracted more international visitors than economic factors alone could account for.

Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler says the remaining growth can reasonably be attributed to tourism marketing by the organisation and others in the industry such as Air New Zealand.

"We have seen significant growth driven by beautiful backdrops and key aspects of New Zealand in the movies. 

"While it is clear that improving economies and increased airline capacity are supporting tourism growth, the ‘Hobbit’ factor has raised the profile of New Zealand exponentially around the world.

"This summer we've seen record numbers visiting Matamata and Hobbiton, running tours of around 40 tourists every 10 minutes."

Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, the real life film set used in the The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit films, has welcomed around 800,000 visitors since first opening and has become one of New Zealand’s most visited tourist attractions. But it is also a functioning cattle and sheep farm run by the Alexander family, whose lives were to change forever when Peter Jackson spotted it amongst the rolling hills of the Waikato region during an aerial location scout. 

After an initial set was built for The Lord of The Rings production, the set was rebuilt in 2011 for The Hobbit Trilogy – this time in permanent materials, complete with Hobbit holes, gardens, bridge, and mill. 

Russell Alexander, who operates Hobbiton Movie Set Tours in partnership with WingNut Films, is confident that it will endure as a permanent tourist attraction.

“We’re seeing more visitors to Hobbiton than ever before. We’re incredibly proud to be New Zealand’s most popular tourist attraction – especially with all the other stunning locations from the film around the country. The Hobbit Trilogy will continue to be popular long into the future and we look forward to welcoming Hobbit fans from all over the world long into the future”.

About The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, from a screenplay by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. Jackson also produced the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh. The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Philippa Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producers.

New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Present a Wingnut Films Production, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. As with the first two films in the Trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the final film is a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), with New Line managing production. Warner Bros. Pictures is handling worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television distribution being handled by MGM.

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies premières in London on Monday 1st December with general release on Friday 12 December in the UK.