Once a beloved high-fantasy classic and one of the best-selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold, The Lord of the Rings developed into a global franchise, with fans all over the world.
It is interesting that the author of the best-selling series, J. R. R. Tolkien, never set foot in New Zealand. However, when it came to the adaptation of the iconic series into movies, NZ seemed like a perfect place, since it bore resemblance to the fictional Middle Earth the most.
Sir Peter Jackson, the man who turned the famous books of Tolkien into even more famous films, was adamant about filming in the land in which he lives – his home country of New Zealand, as he thought the country offered the ideal setting for making moving picture adaptations of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and more recently The Hobbit Trilogy. He called New Zealand the “perfect Middle Earth”.
Little did Jackson know that his choice of filming location would boost his country’s tourism, prompting a rise in numerous guided tours and exhibitions. The franchise has left a tremendous mark on popular culture, inspiring everything from the slippers modeled after the fictional creature Hobbit’s feet to online casino slots in New Zealand.
The Tolkien tourism phenomenon
The popularity of The Lord of the Rings-related tourist attractions and activities has even gained the name of Tolkein tourism. As the name suggests, it is a phenomenon of fans of The Lord of the Rings fictional universe traveling to sites of the film- and book-related significance.
Thanks to the success of the movies, Tolkein tourism is especially notable in New Zealand, as the franchise is credited for significantly raising the annual number of tourists coming in the country. New Zealand’s annual tourist influx increased by 40% from 1.7 million in 2000 to 2.4 million in 2006, which was largely attributed to the success of The Lord of the Rings. 6% of international visitors cited the film as a reason for traveling to the country.
For those who can’t travel to NZ, seek other ways to show appreciation for their favorite books and movies, some fans even taking it to New Zealand VIP casino online games to quench their longing for their favorite franchise, which has long come to an end. What has lasted is the impact that the movies still have on popular culture. Whether you like finding the faces of your favorite characters in the slot games or hope to one day visit the famous Hobbiton, there is no denying the impact the series has had on many people’s lives.
New Zealand has used the unique opportunity to capitalize on the scenery that was made popular by the films. Tolkien tourists often visit the national parks in NZ to witness first-hand the majestic scenery that was used as backdrops in the movies.
Mount Olympus, for example, impressive rock pillars carved out by nature over the centuries, sits in Kahurangi National Park near Nelson in a remote corner of the South Island. Mount Olympus has been a popular destination among the Tolkien tourists since it first appeared in The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of The Lord of the Rings series.
The Hobbiton Movie Set was used extensively for the filming of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series. Located on a family-run farm about 8 kilometers west of Hinuera and 10 kilometers southwest of Matamata, in Waikato, New Zealand, even long after the final scenes of the movies were filmed there, it still stands strong, since it has become a renowned tourist attraction for the Tolkien fans.
Guided tours of the 5.5-hectare film set site started in 2002 and are continuing to be offered regularly. The two-hour excursion is very popular and it is advised that you book ahead.
Tour highlights include Bagshot Row, Party Tree, and Bilbo’s Bag End home. There are now 44 hobbit holes on display but just a handful of them can be accessed, many of which have small, unfinished, earth-walled interiors.
The Hobbiton is crowded most of the time around the year, with many Tolkien tourists going to New Zealand just to visit the place where their favorite movies were filmed. A bit overpriced and crowded, many people would suggest you avoid this place since there are many other attractions (including LOtR-related) to enjoy in NZ.
However, if you can afford the tour and large crowds don’t bother you, there’s no reason to skip this magnificent place and an important part of the movie history. Especially, if you’re a fan of the books and movies, you shouldn’t pass on this opportunity if you happen to be in New Zealand.
Once a regular set for the movies, The Hobbiton has long become an inseparable part of the movie history and the coveted destination for the New Zealand visitors.