An unexpected briefing
An elegant elf explains the safety instructions to passengers on a plane. Among those helping to get her message across we recognize Gollum, Gandalf, dwarves and other fantastical characters directly from Tolkien’s universe… Welcome to Air New Zealand!
Indeed, on the occasion of the international release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: an unexpected journey, the airline company has been broadcasting a 5-minute parody of the movie before each flight, in which these characters explain, with charm and wit, the safety instructions for the flight.
Yes, Air New Zealand, led by the country’s National Organization of Tourism, is taking part in the huge promotional campaign for the film. As the movies have been riding a wave of success all over the world, New Zealand – where the films are located – has decided to take advantage, ready to embrace the fans of Peter Jackson’s franchise.
Peter Jackson, a Kiwi by birth, effectively used the lush green lands as the set for three-episode saga Lord of the Rings. He felt it was perfect to match the landscapes and topography of the magical universe described in Tolkien’s books.
“We want to show to the potential tourists that the magic of Middle-Earth is actually really here,” says Kevin Bowler, CEO of Tourism New Zealand. The national tourism marketing body conducted extensive offshore research into how to best capitalize on the latest films starring the New Zealand landscape as Middle Earth.
Since the first episode of Lords of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released eleven years ago, the country immediately understood that Jackson’s movies could be a major boost to tourism, one of the principle industries on the island. What could be a better tourist attraction for New Zealand than hosting the on-site locations for one of the most successful on-screen trilogies ever produced?
New Zealand has also supported the production of the trilogy with financial backing, in exchange for using some characters and scenes in order to promote its national image across the world.
Many tour-operating companies have started to incorporate the film into their businesses. From Wellington or Auckland, Hobbiton Tours, Red Carpet Tours and many others -recreate the fantasy to enable fans to discover the magic places where the episodes of the saga were shot. Tour groups venture to the forests of Lorien and Fangorn, Helm’s Deep, the Mountain of the Mordor where the famous ring was forged…
Emerald blue lakes, round and green mountains, waterfalls breaking along high walls of black granite…
About one million of tourists come each year to Lake Wakatipu to enjoy the fairy settings featured by Peter Jackson (see picture).
“In 2004 our surveys showed 6% of international arrivals to New Zealand mentioned the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films as part of the reason they had come to the country,” Mr Bowler said. Tourism New Zealand also managed to narrow down the percentage of international die-hard Lord of the Rings fans who came here specifically because of the films in 2004, which was 1% of overall arrivals. A few years later, the same survey showed that a whopping 57% of tourists are familiar with the world of Tolkien and Peter Jackson.
Using fiction to draw tourists
Another legendary hero has also been noticed by the tourism industry: Harry Potter. Warner Bros Entertainment has contributed to this franchise. In the UK, a Harry Potter tour takes the fans around the British countryside, following the tracks of the young wizard’s adventures. Last February, Warner Bros opened to the public their studios in Leavesden, a suburb of London, where the movies were shot. Many families gather around the mythic places of J.K. Rowling’s magic imaginary world. They play quidditch, try to concoct a magic potion, walk in Diagon Alley, and so on.
In Tunisia, you can meet some Star Wars aficionados near Matmata, in the desert, where the shooting of episodes 1 & 2 took place. Here again, tour-operators transport you to the world of your heroes.
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