Photo: Pokémon at Hobbiton in New Zealand. (Courtesy of Alistair Guthrie, New Zealand Tourism)
On Wednesday, government officials in New Zealand announced that tourism had overtaken dairy as the nation's No. 1 earner of overseas income.
According to The Associated Press, tourism representatives in New Zealand acknowledged that the popular “The Hobbit” movie trilogy has helped draw in a whole new demographic of visitors who want to experience locations from the fantasy films.
While New Zealand’s dairy industry continues to bounce back from a recent slump in prices, the country hosted a record 3.4 million visitors over the last year, though September. The island nation is popular with tourists from Australia, China and the United States, and spending by international travelers was up by 20 percent over the last year through March. Spending was also up 17 percent in 2014.
New Zealand tourism chief executive Kevin Bowler said that many of the visitors are coming to the country for the “spectacular landscapes and its outdoor lifestyle,” but admitted that “The Hobbit” movie trilogy brought extra interest to the nation.
A recent study indicated that 16 percent of the tourists visiting New Zealand cited “The Hobbit” as one of the main reasons they made the journey. While the country has added extra flights from the U.S. and several Asian nations to meet demand, tourism officials are looking to ensure there will be enough accommodation for the influx of travelers.
While a booming tourism industry is great news for New Zealand, it doesn’t change the struggles of the dairy industry on the island, with income from dairy products falling by 22 percent over the past two years.
Dairy prices have started to rebound, but many farmers in New Zealand are now looking to embrace the recent wave of increased tourism by offering home stays or hunting trips to supplement their income.