Before I set out to travel to New Zealand for a few months, I was overwhelmed with confirmation that New Zealand was the perfect destination. And no matter who I spoke to, the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy always came up. As most seem to know, The Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand, and no one would let me forget that detail.
Little did I know that the Lord of the Rings would become more than a recurring topic of conversation. Lord of the Rings would be the theme of my New Zealand trip. From the moment I stepped onto the plane, Air New Zealand showed a safety video filled with wizards and hobbits. At the airport, the first billboard reads, “Welcome to Middle Earth.” And from there on, the sightings of hobbits and golden rings are endless. You can tour a movie set or buy movie merchandise at tourism stores. When you go to the post office, you can even pay a little more and choose between a postage stamp with either Frodo or Gandalf prominently displayed.
Even if you don’t pay to go onto a movie set, you are likely to catch a glimpse of similar and scenic landscapes and valleys. And between the merchandise and billboard advertisements, the references are more than a coincidence, but rather a successful marketing strategy.
Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) calls it film tourism, “100% Middle Earth, 100% New Zealand“, a campaign capitalizing on the film for tourism growth. And the numbers that TNZ is reporting deem the campaign a success. Every year six percent of New Zealand tourists claim to travel to New Zealand because of Lord of the Rings, and a handful come solely because of the film.
The location of Lord of the Rings is just as important as the characters themselves. Rather than using an actor to sell a product, the country is using the location to sell its product. And it is working.
Not everyone may know who Frodo or Gandalf are, but the frequent references to hobbits and Middle Earth are hard to miss. People who have seen Lord of the Rings look forward to these sightings and people who have not seen the films have “heard of it” and are just as well versed in New Zealand’s romanticized forests and mountains that are showcased just as well in the films. When you travel to New Zealand, you are not just going to New Zealand you are going to Middle Earth: a fact, regardless of whether you have seen Lord of the Rings.
Taylor Crouch – Marketing Assistant