Hobbits a boost for NZ tourism

TESS MCCLURE
Last updated 11:20 28/03/2014

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Middle-earth marketing of New Zealand has spurred on "remarkable" growth in overseas tourism, new research says.

A report just released by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) found that Hobbit-inspired marketing of New Zealand attractions had helped push the growth of the tourism industry beyond any projections.

Overall, tourism had grown 6 per cent over the year ending December 2013, and grown 7.3 per cent through to year-ending February 2014.

The biggest leap was in the number of United States holiday-makers, which was up more than 20 per cent on the previous year.

Tourism NZ chief executive Kevin Bowler said this was a "remarkable result" and the year-on-year growth was "the kind of growth not seen in a decade".

The NZIER found that while improved economic conditions after the global financial crisis were part of the picture, the country was attracting more visitors than economic factors could account for.

Bowler said marketing was responsible for the difference, and "the strongest of these factors was the impact of New Zealand's association with Middle-earth and the new Hobbit films".

According to the 2013 International Visitor Survey, 14 per cent of holiday arrivals said The Hobbit trilogy was a factor in influencing their decision to visit New Zealand.

Tourism NZ had also experienced record numbers visiting "Hobbiton" in Matamata over summer, running tours of about 40 tourists every 10 minutes.

At a Glance:

Growth in holiday arrivals to NZ for year ending December 2013

- United States: 21.3 per cent
- Germany: 9.4 per cent
- United Kingdom: 5.7 per cent
- Canada: 7.7 per cent
- Japan 1.1 per cent
- Australia: 8.1 per cent
(Source: Statistics NZ)

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