The Lord of the Rings was written by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1954 and has become one of the most well known and read books in history. Christmas 2001 saw the long awaited release of the first part of the film trilogy directed by New Zealander Peter Jackson.
The films took eighteen months to make and were filmed on location in New Zealand at a cost of more than £200 million (Newsround, 2001). The book itself was a massive hit worldwide and the films look set to be just as successful. The first in the trilogy, “The Fellowship of the Ring” has won four Oscars (Syfy Portal, 2002) and five Baftas (Gibbons, 2002).
This essay aims to examine whether “The Lord of the Rings” will be as much of a success for New Zealand’s tourism industry as it has been for it’s director, Peter Jackson and the impact that the film has already had on New Zealand’s tourism policies.
New Zealand is about the same size and shape as Great Britain but with a much smaller population. A population of 3.8 million makes it one of the world’s least crowded countries (Tourism New Zealand, 2002). New Zealand’s landscape varies dramatically from “vast mountain chains, steaming volcanoes, sweeping coastlines, deeply indented fiords to lush rainforests. It has a temperate climate with relatively small seasonal variation makes it an ideal year-round holiday destination” (Tourism New Zealand, 2002). It is easy to see why New Zealand was chosen as the location for filming Lord of the Rings, its diverse landscape makes it the ideal location for everywhere in Middle Earth, from The Shire to Mordor.
A portfolio briefing by the minister of tourism in 1999, states “tourism accounts for $9.1 billion annually (10.3% of GDP) including $4.3 billion in foreign exchange earnings. The sector sustained 118,000 jobs and generated $1.5 billion a year in taxes including $478 million in GST from overseas visitors (i.e. export revenue). Tourism is a growth sector and a major driver of economic opportunity for regional areas, Maori and small business and plays a major role in enhancing international awareness and understanding of New Zealand” (New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport, 1999). This shows how important tourism is to New Zealand and a boost in tourist numbers will massively benefit the whole country.
There appear to be six main tourism departments or agencies responsible for tourism in New Zealand. The New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport, “The office of Tourism and Sport (OTSp) is an independent office established alongside the Department of Internal Affairs. Its role is to support the cause of tourism and sport within government in order to maximize the benefits and opportunities that can be obtained” (www.nztb.govt.nz, 2002). Its primary roles in relation to tourism are “to provide policy advice on tourism and events related issues; promote understanding of tourism issues within Government; act as an agent for the Minister of Tourism in negotiating the annual purchase agreement with the NZTB and undertake monitoring functions set out in that agreement; identify and provide for the information needs of the tourism sector, foster a ‘NZ Inc’ approach by Government to tourism and facilitate greater co-operation between tourism, sports and events related agencies, develop and maintain close communications with the tourism industry; administer the various relevant Acts for which the office is responsible” (New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport, 1999).
The New Zealand Tourism Board (NZTB) “is a Crown Entity established by the New Zealand Tourism Board Act 1991. It has the objective of “…ensuring that New Zealand is so marketed as a visitor destination as to maximize long term benefits to New Zealand” (New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport, 1999).
The New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute (MACI) “was established by the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute Act 1963 and is the leaseholder of the Whakarewarewa reserve and part of the Arikikapakapa reserve” (New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport, 1999).
The Wairakei Tourist Park (WTP), which is part of the OTSp. The Major Events New Zealand Limited (MENZL) “was established in July 1997. MENZL describe their role as major event development, advice to Government and developing strategies and resources to enhance New Zealand’s ability to attract and stage major events” (New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport, 1999).
Finally, there is Qualmark which “is an independent body supported by New Zealand Tourism Board and the Automobile Association. It was established in 1994 as an independent classification and grading system to rate New Zealand’s hotel, motel and holiday park accommodation” (New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport, 1999).
The government in New Zealand works in partnership with the private sector, regional tourism organizations and other tiers of Government via the New Zealand Tourism Board and Office of Tourism and Sport (New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport, 1999). It is no longer possible to sustain a fragmented tourist industry; all areas must work in partnership with one and another. The portfolio briefing, 1999, highlights some of the problems facing New Zealand’s tourism industry.
Tourism markets are becoming more dynamic, customized and unpredictable due to changes in customer behaviour caused by economic, social and technological change. Tourism markets are becoming more competitive and governments need to promote destinations as much as possible to try and gain a larger proportion of the market, although the cost of this promotion continues to rise due to media inflation. Advances in technology means that tourist industries have to constantly redevelop their policies and the ways in which they implement their policies so as to stay up to date with the new trends.
The massive growth of the tourist industry worldwide puts increasing strain the social, cultural and physical environments, therefore governments must ensure that one of the key issues in tourism development is sustainable tourism development.
One of the largest problems facing New Zealand’s tourist industry is the lack of understanding of the value, role and operation of tourism amongst investors, policy makers and Governments at all levels within New Zealand. Hopefully, the film will be profitable for all areas, encouraging them to take an active role in tourism promotion and provision.
The role of the government is to intervene in such areas that cannot be controlled by the private sector, for example market failure and in areas that will benefit the industry as a whole, such as destination promotion.
The New Zealand government have introduced five acts that are associated with the tourism industry. The New Zealand Tourism Board Act, 1991, “which is administered by the OTSp, establishes the NZTB “…to ensure that New
Zealand is so marketed as a visitor destination as to maximise the long-term benefits to New Zealand” and empowers the Minister of Tourism to appoint members of the NZTB Board of Directors”. The Tourist and Health Resorts Control Act, 1908, “which is administered by the OTSp, empowers the Minister to manage reserve Land”. The New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute Act, 1963, “which is administered by OTSp, established the Institute which leases the reserve land at Whakarewarewa. The Institute encourages, develops and perpetuates Maori arts, craft and culture and develops tourism operation”. The Reserves Act, 1977, “This Act vests the Minister of Tourism with the power to grant leases to reserve land held under the Tourist and Health Resorts Control Act. It also empowers the Minister (and Secretary for Internal Affairs/Director, OTSp) to make and enforce by-laws and carry out
management tasks required on these reserves”. The Conservation Act, 1987, “Section 6D 1(b) of the Conservation Act provides for members of the New Zealand Conservation Authority to be appointed by the Minister of Conversation after consultation with the Minister of Tourism” (New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport, 1999).
“New Zealand is internationally renowned for its vast expanse of natural assets and beauty. Traditionally, international tourists were drawn to New Zealand to experience the unpolluted air and water, the open spaces and unique plant and animal life. Today, the discerning traveller is looking more for: adventure, welcoming city centres, cultural activities and a touch of nature. Tourists want more than a view of the physical New Zealand: they want an inside panorama of everyday life, culture and activity”(New Zealand Government, 2002).
As this quote from the New Zealand government shows, New Zealand has a fantastic environment to promote to tourists. However, tourism has become a very competitive industry and countries need to do everything in their power to attract the maximum amount of tourists. New Zealand now has something extra that they can promote, something that no other country can claim to have, it is home to Tolkein’s Middle Earth. This is something that New Zealand can use to their advantage and need to promote as much as they possibly can. The opportunity to benefit from such a widely acclaimed film is one that the New Zealand government do not intend to miss out on. The simple fact that there is already such huge interest in the film, from film buffs to lifelong Tolkein fans, means that promoting New Zealand in this way appears to be relatively easy. Walker (2001) highlights the benefits of using a film to promote a tourist destination, “Feature films may be seen as a valuable vehicle for specific ‘product placement’. Similarly, they can also be a catalyst for destination-specific tourism, when the film’s messages are memorable and durable. Further, individual films are likely to reach much larger audiences than specifically targeted tourism promotion”.
On 9th November 2001, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clarke, announced that the government would allocate up to $9 million in additional funding over the next two years on a range of projects aimed at capitalising on the forthcoming release of “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy and the staging of the next America’s Cup regatta (New Zealand Government, 2001). A quote from Helen Clarke shows that New Zealand government are all in favour of promoting “Lord of the Rings” tourism, “The government is determined that the enormous opportunities offered by the epic The Lord of The Rings project, along with New Zealand’s second defence of the America’s Cup, are not lost” (New Zealand Government, 2001).
The New Zealand government have appointed a minister for “Lord of the Rings”, Pete Hodgson. A press release, on 7th November 2001, from the New Zealand government, highlights the criteria for assessing and ranking proposals for each event and activity. “The focus must be to showcase the best of New Zealand and have benefit for New Zealand. There must be a clear linkage between the activity and New Zealand and the defence of the America’s Cup in 2003 and/or the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. There is an economic impact assessment report provided for key events and activities and a cost/benefit analysis provided for all other projects. Either individually or collectively, private sector parties, Tourism New Zealand, Trade New Zealand, Industry New Zealand, other government agencies or entities, meet at least one-quarter of the total cost from existing budgets and or sponsorships. Finally, no new funding will be provided if it is an existing event or activity, unless it is proposed to expand an event or activity in an identifiable and measurable manner.”
There are a number of projects already in place to promote New Zealand as the home of “Lord of the Rings”. Premieres of the film all over the world were used to promote New Zealand as the place where the films were made and at some of the premieres the refreshments supplied consisted of produce from New Zealand. Supplements advertising New Zealand as a holiday destination were placed in all of the major film magazines worldwide.
One of the main ways that New Zealand have been promoting “Lord of the Rings” tourism is via the New Zealand Tourist Board’s website, www.purenz.com. The site offers a Flash movie that takes you through the landscape that was used for the filming and also has interviews with cast and crew. “This behind the scenes journey is broken into five parts which focus on the interesting parallels between the fictional world and the real life country and people that helped realise it” (www.purenz.com, 2002).
Tourism New Zealand spokesperson, Josie Brennan, commented on how successful this part of the website has been so far, “We’ve been averaging around 4000 visitors a day but in that first 24 hours the traffic doubled over what we’d been getting” (www.idg.net.nz, 2002). George Hickton, chief of tourism New Zealand stated about the website that, “Of the visitors, 36% are from the USA, 15% from Australia and 9% from the UK” (Boeyen, 2001).
Many tour operators, who say sales have risen by more than 20 per cent in the two weeks since the film was released and predict that visitor numbers will double by the end of the year (Arlidge, 2002), are promoting specialist “Lord of the Rings” tours. “Specialist tour firm, Bridge the World says its £1,529 ‘Follow the Fellowship of the Ring’ tour, which takes visitors on a 12-night tour of sites used in the film, is selling twice as fast as expected. James Bell, the firm’s marketing director, said: ‘The film has had a rapid impact. People want to see the land behind the movie.’ “(Arlidge, 2002). This is one of the many special “Lord of the Rings” tours that are now available and the demand for them is growing rapidly.
It appears that “The Lord of the Rings” is giving New Zealand’s tourist industry the boost it has needed. “Tourist chiefs estimate that over the three years the film will boost New Zealand’s tourism industry by one third. Geoff Kearsley, an expert in tourism at Otago University, said: ‘If this film achieves half of what is expected, it will be massive for New Zealand.'” (Arlidge, 2002). Not only will the film boost tourism numbers in the short term, hopefully people who may have never even thought of visiting New Zealand will now see what a glorious destination it is and those that have been will encourage their friends to visit.
From the research undertaken for this essay it can be easily seen that the film has already has a massive impact by boosting tourism numbers to New Zealand and by raising the country’s profile, worldwide, as the home of Middle Earth. With another two films still to be released it is almost certain that New Zealand’s tourism and film industries will continue to to benefit for some time to come.