Hobbiton could pull 150,000 tourists a year
Hobbiton, which last year attracted 30,000 visitors, is expected to welcome as many as 150,000 visitors a year by 2015 if plans for the expansion and development of the quaint set for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies are approved. Rings Scenic Tours, owner operator of the Hobbiton movie set outside Matamata, has lodged an application for a resource consent with the local District Council. In it, the applicants have detailed a three stage plan that would see the establishment of car and coach parking, paths and toilet facilities, followed by the development of the Hobbit Hole conference and incentives centre in a marqueestyled building, and eventually as multi-purpose exhibition space containing movie stage sets and memorabilia, plus a Visitor Centre with restaurant/cafe, function areas and retail, and outdoor dining at the thatched Green Dragon Inn.
The recent filming of the two Hobbit movies had already involved the building in permanent materials of the Green Dragon, The Watermill, the Bridge and Jetty, the many Hobbit Holes and the landmark Bag End Tree. In its application, Ring Scenic Tours estimates that visitor numbers to Hobbiton will grown the 45, 000 this year; 85,000 in 2013; 100,000 in 2014; and 150,000 by 2015. The growth is predicated on the impact of the staged release of the two movies over the next two Christmases.
The applicant says around 75% of the visitors will be FITs in cars, with the balance arriving by coach or minibus, including a shuttle operation from Rotorua. They estimate that 88% of visitors will be international,with the biggest markets split 18% from Australia, 12% from Asia, 11% from the UK, 11% from the US and 10% from Germany. The Tourism Industry Association last week wrote in support of the application, saying “If the soon to be released Hobbit movies are as successful as the LOTR trilogy, then the country as a whole can expect to see a real boost to visitor arrivals and expenditure in New Zealand beyond the end of 2012. “Tourism.net.nz lists more than 59 tour companies offering LOTR-related products.”