Travel feature on Hobbit film boosts tourism

ON THE UP: Piopio’s Hairy Feet Waitomo is getting a lot more visitors thanks to publicity in America.
Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ
ON THE UP: Piopio’s Hairy Feet Waitomo is getting a lot more visitors thanks to publicity in America.

News of Waitomo's Hobbit location has spread to America.

A travel feature on the Piopio location chosen by Sir Peter Jackson to double as Trollshaw Forest in 2012's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey recently appeared in 22 American publications thanks to the work of the council-funded regional tourism organisation.

"We have had a lot of pick-up with Piopio's Hairy Feet Waitomo," said Hamilton and Waikato Tourism's (HWT) outgoing chief executive Kiri Goulter.

Goulter, who leaves the council-funded regional tourist organisation after five years in June, was expecting to see more tourists visit the new attraction after the last of Jackson's Hobbit trilogy was released in December this year.

The southern King Country farm, notable for its towering 80-metre-tall limestone cliffs, features in about six minutes of the first Hobbit movie, and its stunning vistas were chosen by Tourism New Zealand to promote the film overseas.

"HWT hosted a number of international media and trade as interest in the region continues to grow through the strength of our international icons, Hobbiton, Raglan and Waitomo."

She told Waitomo District Council, in her six-monthly report yesterday, that the region's international guest nights were up 16.1 per cent for 2013, while domestic nights were up 0.8 per cent.

The figures related to the year after the first Hobbit movie, An Unexpected Journey, was released. The second, The Desolation of Smaug, followed in December 2013.

"As a region we are performing really strongly," Goulter said.

For December 2013 alone, Statistics New Zealand figures showed Hamilton and Waikato Region's guest nights were up 7.9 per cent compared to 3.3 per cent nationally. Goulter said regional international visitor expenditure was $1.07 billion - above the national average.

With Explore Central North Island (ECNI), a collective of tourism organisations, the regional tourism organisation (RTO) also participated in international trade events in India and China with the "Love North" campaign.

The ECNI collective is marketing the Central North Island as one of New Zealand's key cycling destinations.

Mayor Brian Hanna and Destination Waitomo chairman Nick Andreef praised Goulter for her work. "What you have done for the region has been fantastic over the years," Hanna said.

Waikato Times