Glen Croy, a specialist in film-driven tourism at Australia’s Monash University, said research showed any jump in visitor numbers would not be driven by hardcore Tolkien fans sporting prosthetic Hobbit feet.
He said the film’s value lay in putting New Zealand on the agenda as a destination for ordinary travelers considering a long-haul holiday.
“People still talk about Lord of the Rings, people still remember the films. You choose to watch a film, which you don’t do with an advertisement, and that makes people more receptive,” he said.
He said the incidental benefits from filming in New Zealand — such as Orlando Bloom raving about Kiwi ski-fields or Stephen Fry waxing lyrical on Twitter about Wellington’s coffee — also drew people in.
Tourism New Zealand is not specifying how much of a lift it expects from The Hobbit, but Gatward-Ferguson said the high local dollar and tough economic times meant it was unlikely to match The Lord of the Rings.
“It’ll be positive but it’ll be muted,” he said. “There’s a lot of naysayers out there and we’re not going to get another wall of visitors, but New Zealand is small enough that we only need to win over a small proportion of the world market to make a big difference.”
The Kiwi dollar has almost doubled against the greenback since the first movie, currently around US$0.83 and tipped to threaten a record-high of US$0.8843 set in August last year, compared with US$0.43 in late 2001.