Travel websites have reported significant growth in searches and bookings for New Zealand this month, after the worldwide release of The Hobbit.
The flight search website Sky scanner.com recorded a 102 per cent increase in worldwide searches for flights to New Zealand this month compared with December 2011, including a 117 per cent spike in searches for flights to Wellington.
The foreign currency exchange group Travelex has reported a 26 per cent increase in pre-orders for New Zealand dollars compared with December 2011.
Air New Zealand bookings from the United States were reported to have nearly doubled on the day before the November 28 world premiere in Wellington, and increased by a third in Japan after a Hobbit promotion there.
The worldwide tour operator Trailfinders, which has introduced a Hobbiton Express Day Tour from Auckland for 2013, has reported almost a 10 per cent increase in forward bookings to New Zealand for the new year.
Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said he had noted a growth in interest in New Zealand as a travel destination in Britain, "and a much more positive vibe about bookings" since September.
He said the international media coverage of Wellington as a result of its hosting the premiere had increased the city's global profile, and this was expected to lead to a surge in bookings.
"We were really pleased how much coverage we achieved.
"We knew from when Wellington hosted the last Lord of the Rings premiere [The Return of the King in 2003] that coverage meant a significant surge in bookings, but we weren't sure how different global financial conditions would affect that.
"The indicators have been good since the noise around The Hobbit started to grow in September."
Tourism New Zealand spokeswoman Deborah Gray said there had been a surge in Hobbit-related searches on its newzealand.com website. Searches for "hobbit", "Hobbiton", "Lord of the Rings" and "Middle-earth" were up 265 per cent for November compared with the previous three-month average.
- The Dominion Post