From humble beginnings, of Tuhourangi tribe members providing tour guides to English explorers wanting to be marveled at the White Terraces, New Zealand has been the perfect place for the adventurous spirit to be set free. But even with all of its wonderments tourism has historically been a slow- growing industry. The main problem isn’t the amount Of natural attractions present, it’s that in the past, access to such were limited and often required days of travel deterring many would-be travelers.
Much like the islands hemselves, such locations like the White Terraces, were too remote from major ports and cities turning them from leisure vacation spots to time consuming excursions. Up until the 1950’s, the country was also mainly agricultural and foreign direct investments by hotel chains were uninspiring because of New Zealand’s costly regulations. It would take years before the government would begin actively investing in the industry, first by creating the Tourist Hotel Corporation (THC) that prepared the groundwork and standards for a budding tourism industry to follow.
After the introduction of he THC, tourism would continue to grow at a steady rate. Major flight paths were introduced from both British Overseas Airways and Air New Zealand that provided non-stop flights to and from the islands, greatly opening up markets and increasing accessibility. From the 1 950’s to the 2000’s there were booms to the industry mainly a result of outdoor activities finally finding their marketable niches.
Activities like rafting were marketed towards those looking for a calmer relaxed thrill “the experience was a leisurely one offering people the chance to enjoy the captivating scenery’ (Hickton), while bungee umping attracted the voracious adrenaline seeker “bungee jump has long been a Vanuatu demonstration of courage and a celebration of the yam harvest. Now, it has become synonymous with the New Zealand tourism experience” (Hickton) New Zealand had something for everyone.
Tourism was now rising yearly but not close to the explosion experienced after the massive success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Lord of the Rings franchise, based off the J. R. R Tolkien’s magnum opus fantasy novel, is one of the most successful movie franchises of all time. The final movie alone was nominated for over 150 accolades and won 11 major wards at the 76th academy awards. Spanning from best director (Peter Jackson) to Best Sound Mixing, its a universally celebrated franchise known for its visual fidelity as well as all-star acting.
Major areas that are crucial to the story like the snowy Misty Mountains, rolling green hills of the Shire, and radiant Anduin River, are so perfectly portrayed by Jackson that it’s almost assumed you’re looking at a software generated recreation of “Middle Earth”. But It’s not! The majority of the film was filmed on location, with practical sets, using CG mainly to enhance the natural beauty of the filmings location and dd impossible features like the Argonath pillars.
Where else could you find all the epic elements of a high fantasy world other than the real world marvel of New Zealand, and Jackson took full advantage. While those involved saw a major pay, the kiwi islands may have benefited the most from the films success. In its opening weekend, the best indicator for forecasting the success of a movie, the Return of the King was attended by over 12 million and shown in 3,703 theaters domestically. Every viewer can be considered a potential tourist who were just exposed to over 8 hours of promotional images of New
Zealand’s landscapes while enjoying an incredible movie, instantly the effects could be felt. Gregg Anderson, the general manager for long haul western strategy at Tourism New Zealand, described the new found interest as having a direct increase in visitors “We’ve seen a 50% increase in arrivals to New Zealand since Lord of the Rings” (Pinchefsky) While the technical percentages may seem small, only 6% of all visitors claim the Lord of the Rings as a main reason for coming to the islands and 1 % cite it as the only reason for visiting, the effect on the economy is significant.
It generates approximately $27 million added to the industry from those citing LOTR as their only reason for traveling New Zealand and the amount of jobs created to build accommodations, attractions, and services have added further value to the Nez Zealand economy. pre Tolkien era New Zealand’s tourism was its 5th largest export sector now it’s the 2nd, contributing to 15% of total exports and employing 94,100 full time equivalents. But the true success story is of how the tourism industry started off over 100 years ago with plenty of potential and how it’s matured and entered the global stage.
The travel estrictions of the past have become non-issues with the most remote areas still relatively quick to reach by helicopters, A TVs, and better roadways. Large resorts are also waiting for those wanting to relax on sandy beaches and soak up the sun. The Lord of the Rings have been a major contributor to the success of New Zealand, and with the completion of The Hobbit trilogy this past December only time Will tell if lightning can strike twice. One thing is for certain for many people New Zealand isn’t only the islands of natural beauty, but its the islands of hobbits.