What is the impact of the Lord of the Rings on New Zealand’s Tourism industry?

Introduction During a more relaxed PBL session in a prior module, the tutor presented a safety instructional video from Air New Zealand to the group. In this video the actors were all dressed up as figures from the famous Lord of the Rings movies. Ever since, the author of this proposal confronted himself with the question how exactly New Zealand’s tourism industry is influenced by the aforementioned phenomenon. There already has been quite some research on the movie induced tourism of New Zealand. However, whether it brings lasting economy growth to New Zealand’s tourism industry, is an issue barely covered.
Thus, this assignment will attempt to answer the question: What is the impact of the Lord of the Rings on New Zealand’s Tourism industry from the release in 2001 till the year 2016? First, the paper will begin with defining what film induced tourism is and why it is an option for New Zealand’s tourism industry. This is done to create a basic understanding of the subject. After that the question will be answered how “The Lord of the Rings” is used for marketing purposes and the degree of dependency on this marketing form.
In return that will lead to the third item of this paper, the customer satisfaction level of movie tourists. This is also relevant for evaluating the efficiency of the marketing efforts. Lastly the impact of movie-induced tourism on New Zealand’s economy will be discussed. That is necessary to predict future developments and the fortitude of the impact on industry. Body Before the impacts of film-induced tourism on New Zealand can be discussed, an understanding of what Film-induced tourism is and why it exists has to be provided.

The origins of the modern tourism form lie in the late 18th century. Ever since the eras of romanticism and storm and stress, fictional stories and characters influenced the being and desires of its consumers. As common knowledge, the novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther”, for instance, resulted in a phenomenon referred to as “Werther-fever” . The audience celebrated the hero of the novel by dressing up identical to the main character; reading circles were found and festivals with Werther themes were held.
However, the most remarkable of all events associated with the Werther-fever were the journeys to Switzerland, undertaken by many enthusiasts of the Goethe novel. Readers felt the need to experience the described scenery of the Swiss alps in person. This occurrence is transferable to the fantasy literature success, The Lord of the Rings. The fantasy novel caused fan clubs, fan art and some even learned the languages used by certain characters in the books. Despite the popularity of the trilogy, written by J. R. R.
Tolkien, the relevance of the novel for New Zealand would have been of no significance, if the movie industry had not made the decision to produce a movie series transferring the story from paper on to the screen. In addition Tolkien is not directly connected to the country. Director Peter Jackson, a New Zealander himself, brought the production to his native land. Once the audience was confronted with the movies, showing New Zealand’s’ landscapes as breathtaking scenery of “Middle Earth”, the bases for film-induced tourism was laid.
In 2004, The third part of the series, “The Return of the King”, won 11 Oscars, exposing the landscapes of New Zealand to approximately 200 million viewers worldwide. (Carl, Kindon & Smith 2007) Following the logic of the aforementioned matter, movie-induced tourism simply is on-location tourism that relates to a successful movie. Thus, the term can be widened to film-induced tourism, taking television, DVD and other mediums into account. (Beeton 2005)Nonetheless, film induced tourism is not restricted to only one form. There are two main forms: On-Location tourism and Off-Location tourism.
On-location tourism includes all activities that are related directly to the film location. Therefore it can have different characteristics. As portrayed by Sue Beeton, movie tourism can be the main reason to travel to a certain destination. Nevertheless, the participation in movie related tourism activities can also only be one of various events during a holiday. The same applies to off-location tourism which ,in contrast to on-location tourism, covers all film touristic activities not related to the film location, such as studio theme parks or studio tours. (Beeton 2005)
Since it is now established what film induced tourism is and why it works for New Zealand, it is necessary to determine the degree of influence of The Lord of the Rings on destination marketing. The Importance of the movies to not only the tourism industry but the country as a whole becomes obvious when reckoning that already in 2001, when the first movie was released, a “Minister of the Rings” was announced, by the government to optimize the profits gained from the movies to nation in a holistic approach.
Therefore, the minister not only managed the film-induced tourism related issues but also in terms of the film industry and connected employment. (Beeton 2005) Though this may seem to be a drastic measure on first sight, it quickly becomes evidence of wise foresight. In Forbes online magazine Gregg Anderson, general manager of western long haul markets for Tourism New Zealand, stated: “We’ve seen a 50% increase in arrivals to New Zealand since Lord of the Rings” (Pinchefsky 2012) This increase is the result of various promotion efforts that include official government initiatives as well.
During the time period of 2001 to 2004, more than 20 million $NZ were spent on promotion related to the trilogy. The destination marketing, of public and private entities was executed on all four levels: National, local, individual and media. Activities ranged from releasing themed stamps, setting up Lord of the rings tourism websites, renaming street names (Gandalf street),over specialized guidebooks, to reports on world premiers. After Pinchefsky, even “… New Zealand Custom Service currently stamps visitor’s passports with a “Welcome to Middle Earth” stamp.” (Pinchefsky 2012)
Another key player giving in to the trend towards film based marketing is Air New Zealand. The air carrier uses safety instructional videos with a Lord of the rings theme. Further, in 2004 several air craft’s were painted with characters and scenes from the movies and the pilots welcomed passenger in Wellington with: “Welcome to Middle Earth”. Overall film induced marketing was a successful approach to increase the exposure of New Zealand as a tourism destination.
According to Tourism New Zealand, New Zealand’s national tourism board, 87 percent of potential customers considering a trip to the country were familiar with the fact, that the trilogy was filmed in New Zealand. In contrast to that, in the year 2004, tourists who came to the destination primarily motivated to participate in film induced tourism, only made up one percent of all travelers entering the country. Though one percent does not appear to be a significant number, it translates into NZ$32. 8milion of tourist spending. Six percent acknowledged the movies to be one of their main reasons for traveling to New Zealand. (Tourism New Zealand n. d. ) As a result, that means 94% of the tourists posses a secondary or no interest in New Zealand’s film tourism.
The conclusion deriving from that circumstance is essential. Despite using Jackson’s movies for a broad range of promotional tools, the tourism industry is not solely relying on them. This can be demonstrated with the following example: Approximately 30 percent of New Zealand’s territory consists of protected parks with hiking trails in most of them. The responsible institution for the parks is the Department of Conservation. It solely promotes the protected area for common purposes such as hiking or walking. Thus “The Lord of the Rings” is consciously excluded in promotional activities to protect the environment.
Simultaneously this helps remaining the image of the country being a destination for outdoor adventure travel. (Beeton 2005 p. 82) In addition, Tourism New Zealand promotes the destination with the slogan: “100% pure New Zealand”, emphasizing on natural beauty and cultural heritage. After having established that New Zealand’s tourism industry can and actively promotes its offerings to tourists around the globe, the efficiency of the practiced movie brand marketing has to be determined. This can be achieved by regarding the site sacralization as an indicator for the effectiveness of using Tolkien’s fantasy story for promotion purposes.
The site sacralization theory classically describes four phases; naming, framing and elevation, mechanical reproduction and social reproduction. ( MacCannell 1999) Since the lord of the ring sites are not naturally developed but a product of transitioning fictional places and items to reality, the theory has to be adjusted. The naming is already given through the story itself. Further, the second phase of framing and elevation is completed. Tourist attractions such as “Hobbiton” stand out being staged as a meaningful subject of its own.
In case of the mechanical reproduction, meaning that the attraction is materialized and sold as for example a souvenir, it has to be understood, that there is also merchandize not related to New Zealand. The Lord of the Rings is a brand producing figures, cosplay and much more. Since the film locations and set are part of the merchandize product, the mechanical reproduction of many film-induced tourism sites mixes with the Lord of the Rings brand. The consequence is a blur of the boundary between fictional place and real tourism attraction. Therefore the last phase, social reproduction, is only reached partly. The nature of the final phase is that it lets the attraction identify itself as the destination.
In other words, the attraction is noticed as identical to the destination. The consequence is, that tourists visit a tourism simply for the attraction, not the destination including the site. The positive aspect of that condition is the large exposure of the attraction to potential visitors. New Zealand’s destination marketing managed to benefit from the incompleteness of the social reproduction in two ways. Firstly, those who identify the tourism sites, and therefore New Zealand as a whole, with the scenes of “The Lord of the Rings” will directly react to promotion measures embracing fan culture.
Secondly, for all others the movies will act as an ambassador for the country as destination itself with its natural beauty. Therefore, using destination marketing based on the movie is highly sufficient, as long as the trilogy is present in the heads of the people. This will not be an issue for the next two decades, as the prequel to the Lord of the Rings, “The Hobbit”, premiered in early 2013. The Hobbit will be a trilogy as well. As any business in the tertiary sector might agree with, maintaining customers is more efficient then attracting new ones. Thus customer satisfaction is an elementary aspect to every business.
For New Zealand’s film-induced tourism that raises the question of how tourists experience sites and whether they are satisfied. The difficulty lies in the fact that most backdrops used for the movies have been edited and the tourists experience of the attraction interferes with the experience of the watching the movie. In return that might cause dissatisfaction, if the imagined experience differs significantly from the actual experience. (Carl, Kindon & Smith 2007) Karl, Kindon and Smith analyzed three tours specialized in activities related to “The Lord of the Rings”. Those tours included film sets and pure scenery used for backdrops.
The conclusion drawn was that the vast majority of the tourists was satisfied with the experience. In most cases expectations were met or even exceeded. Further, it was argued, that success and satisfaction level for activities, connected to scenery only, depend heavily on the performance of the tour guides presenting the attraction. Therefore, the quality of the products offered by New Zealand’s film-induced tourism is difficult to evaluate. On a macro level “The Lord of the Rings”, is absolutely suited for film induced tourism. There are three qualities a film has to posses in order to be successfully used for film tourism.
Those are: uniqueness, status and timely significance. The trilogy inherits all three qualities. It is a unique film experience on the verge of becoming an all time classic. Moreover, it has a high status as a movie setting new standards to its time and winning 11 Oscars. Lastly the movie was shot to a time where the aftermath of the 11th September attacks led to a war against terror. The story of the trilogy contains similar elements of good versus evil, which made it almost a metaphor for the historical developments at the time. The result was “The Lord of the Rings” as a part of pop culture.
The intermediary result from the aforementioned issues lead to the conclusion, that Tourists participating in film-induced tourism related to Jacksons movies, are majorly satisfies with the provided experience. This is also conditioned by the quality of the trilogy itself. To be able to indicate the impact the movies had on the economy in the past and what the future might look like, economic statistics have to be critically reviewed. An intricacy is the limited amount of film-induced tourism data available. Hence it will be attempted to draw conclusions from the existing general tourism data.
Last year, tourism generated a direct contribution to New Zealand’s’ GDP of $6. 2 billion, or 3. 3 percent of the total GDP. (Statistics New Zealand 2012) As already stated before, one percent of the tourists in 2004 named The Lord of the rings as the main reason to have chosen New Zealand’s as travel destination. Another six percent named it to be one of their main reasons. Thus it could be assumed that those six percent directly are responsible for the same percentage of the tourism GDP equaling $370 million. The tourism industry provides 6. 2 percent of the national employment. (Statistics New Zealand 2012)
That makes tourism the second biggest industry after dairy, which demonstrates the importance of the sector to the country. The annual tourism expenditures can be used to indicate the immediate influence of the trilogy on the industry. Especially the expenditure of international tourists increased explicitly, c, one year after the premier of the final part of the trilogy. Though the higher expenditure is not necessarily combined with film tourism attractions, the great exposure of the destinations scenery in the movies, obviously had an effect on the higher expenditure, which is also related to the higher amount of travelers.
The number of international visitors rose from approximately 1. 800. 000 in the millennium year to more than 2. 370. 000 in the year 2005. ( TRADING ECONOMICS n. d. ) For the future, the Ministry of Tourism forecasted 3. 12 million visitor annually by 2016. This forecast appears to be reasonable as the prequel to The lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, premiered in November 2012, with two more episodes to come. This is likely to cause an increase in brand exposure and therefore another growth in tourist arrivals similar to the development of the time frame 2001-2005.
Taking the above mentioned numbers and statistics into account, it can be concluded, that film-induced tourism has a positive impact on the entire economy of New Zealand, though the precise details are difficult to attain, due to lack of research and data in the field. Most likely, this trend will be continued during the next decade.
Conclusion Having demonstrated the issues related to the question :”What is the impact of the Lord of the Rings on New Zealand’s Tourism industry from the release in 2001 till the year 2016?”, the following conclusion can be drawn: Film-induced tourism contains on-location and of-location activities related to successful films or movies. It’s origins lie in the literature tourism of the late 18th century, during the eras of romanticism and storm and stress. Further, The Lord of the Rings as opportunity for New Zealand’s tourism industry was not relevant before the countries scenery was chosen for the trilogy’s backdrop. Moreover, the Tourism board of New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand, and private businesses fully embraced the Lord of the Rings as marketing opportunity.
Hence, the film-induced destination marketing of public and private entities was executed on all four levels: National, local, individual and media. The usage of Jacksons movies for promotion purposes was a success, considering that 87 percent of all people considering New Zealand as a destination, were familiar with the fact that the country served as film location. Further, the country is not solely relying on film-induced marketing as it benefits from the only partly reached fourth phase of the site sacralization process. As it is an essential element for long lasting customer relationships customer satisfaction is a significant issue.
The majority of travelers participating in film tourism related activities was satisfied. In general expectations were met or even exceeded, depending on the degree of imagined experience influenced by the movies. That is why tour guides contribute a considerably to customer satisfaction. Lastly the impact of film-induced tourism on the overall economy is not completely researched. Never the less it represents about 6% of the tourism GDP. In addition the visitor numbers and tourism expenditure has increased drastically during the time The Lord of the Rings ran in theaters.
International tourism spending rose from $6,398 million in 2001 to $8,619 million in 2005. For 2016 the amount of visitors was forecasted to 3,2 million. As a result it is most likely that film induced tourism will be growing similar to the growth between 2001-2005. This is supported by the prequel “The Hobbit” that premiered November 2012. Taking all the aforementioned data into account, it can be stated that “The Lord of the Rings” and its prequel will have a lasting positive effect on New Zealand’s Tourism economy, for at least, the next decade.

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