The new Peter Jackson adaptation of Tolkein's beloved book The Hobbit appears to be generating a boost in visitor numbers to New Zealand similar to the one created by the Lord of the Rings franchise.
Flights to New Zealand have seen huge increases in demand since even before the film's release, with even the trailer sparking travellers' imaginations and inspiring them to become 'Tolkein Tourists'. New Zealand's capital city Wellington is doing its utmost to cash in on the latest film, even renaming itself 'Middle of Middle Earth' and introducing the temporary 'Middle Earth dollar' currency during the period the film is being screened. Travellers flying to Wellington Airport will be greeted by a statue of Gollum standing 12 metres high, and if they choose to fly with Air New Zealand, will get to enjoy a Tolkein-themed safety video featuring director Peter Jackson. The tourist board offers visitors a downloadable map guiding them to all the Tolkein-related sites in and around the city.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy was thought to have been the main cause of a 40 per cent increase in visitors to New Zealand between 2000 and 2006. The regional manager for Tourism New Zealand in the United States and Canada, Bruce Lahood, is quoted as describing the films as "the best unpaid advertisement that New Zealand has ever had." The Hobbit premiered in the UK on December 13th and is set to become the most successful December release in movie history, with an estimated $85 million expected over the first weekend of showings. Image sources:1 2 3