Ka-ching! Plenty of gold brought to Hobbiton
An influx of Hobbiton-bound tourists after the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has set Matamata tills ringing.
The Waikato town is more popular than ever, with many business owners reporting the busiest January they can recall.
Jacob Henderson, of the Redoubt Bar and Eatery, said his busy season started early with the opening of the i-SITE Gatehouse on November 29.
"That was the best day we have had in the six years we have been open," he said.
Since then, the Redoubt has had a steady flow of customers with an average of 30 a day there to visit Hobbiton.
"It's been great . . . fantastic. They're here on holiday so they're usually pretty good customers - they're happy and they're rapt with Hobbiton so they're in good spirits," he said.
Likewise, Diamond Jewellers has been capitalising on the influx of Tolkien fans by offering its official range of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings jewellery.
Owners Neil and Joan Gibbs have had their busiest January in years, spurred by a spike in international visitors.
"We have been very, very busy," Mr Gibbs said.
"What's exciting is, they are coming into town to go on the Hobbiton tour but then they stay and filter round and have a look around town.
"Before they seemed to come in, go out to see the movie set and they would be off again.
"We have had New Zealanders as well, coming for the day, but predominantly the ones who are spending the dollars are from overseas."
The Lord of the Rings rings were most popular and the shop's hobbit-themed window display was attracting tourists. Some were stopping to take photos of it. , Mrs Gibbs said.
Matamata i-Site manager Sue Whiting said she was "thrilled" that the success of the Gatehouse and Hobbiton tours was filtering through to local businesses.
"From our end, there have been times when there's just wall-to-wall people and I hoped that those people were able to benefit the rest of the town," she said.
Ms Whiting said that with up to 750 people passing through the i-Site each day, the organisation was looking at the possibility of extending the centre.
"[The Gatehouse] has done everything we wanted it to do - it has stopped traffic.
"Obviously it's been financially worthwhile to our business, which means it's financially worthwhile to the town."
Tony Voyce, the owner of Broadway Motel, said his numbers for January were up on previous years, but he was not so quick to attribute them to Hobbiton.
"We have had some Hobbiton visitors staying but they tend to only come for the day or stay one night at most."
He said a rise in weddings held in Matamata during Christmas and New Year had been more beneficial for accommodation providers.
Hamilton and Waikato Tourism chief executive Kiri Goulter said that although it was too early to look at accommodation statistics for December and January, the numbers for September through to November were positive.
"Across the Matamata Piako district, accommodation numbers were up 46.2 per cent in September, 13.7 per cent in October and 31 per cent in November," she said.