Tourism hopes on Hobbit

Alan Wood at Stuff reports:

Shudderomg, broken buildings, bloodied, terrified people, swarms of orange-jacketed rescuers probing huge piles of concrete for signs of life, these were the images of February 22’s earthquake that beamed around the world last year.

And after every major aftershock in the past year there have been more pictures of destruction.

Little wonder that international tourists are giving the region and the South Island a wide berth. How does an industry recover when its lifeblood, international tourists, has shrunk massively? …

Rotorua’s Kay Clarke says her central North Island clients, a range of operators, have certainly been hurt.

Her Stay and Play NZ Tourism Connections business has 46 clients in businesses ranging from accommodation, lake cruising to fly fishing adventures, with many reporting traveller numbers have dropped off.

Her team helped to market and promote these clients to Australia, Europe, the Americas and Asia, putting them in touch with wholesale buyers in these markets who bring tourists direct to the operators.

Clarke says the Canterbury earthquakes have “absolutely” impacted her clients in several ways. For some it’s having to change itineraries on tours. For others it is much more.

The perception that the whole of New Zealand was damaged is a real issue.

“Some of that is ongoing. Even when there is a little shake, sometimes the international media are showing old footage.

“We’re hearing even from some of the people at Trenz that it’s still impacting on their businesses. It therefore impacts on ours.”

The industry is made up of hundreds of small businesses. Some were noticeably downbeat at the Trenz tourism industry conference in Queenstown last week but they are looking for a silver lining to their troubles.

Tourism is one of our best ways to earn money, as it brings money directly into New Zealand. So what is the silver bullet?

All around the conference centre were billboards of the upcoming Hobbit films, one to be released at the end of this year and the second 12 months later.

This is the great hope of the industry – hope that it will set off a pilgrimage of tourists to New Zealand and showcase the glorious scenery and leisure and adventure options this small country can offer, just as the Lord of the Rings films did 12 years ago.

Just as well then that the Australian union did not succeed in killing off , supported by haters in Labour. Everytime someone in Labour spits bile at the name Warners, consider what would have happened if they had won.

At the moment, New Zealand’s tourism industry is worth $9.7 billion in foreign spending a year, it keeps nearly 180,000 people in jobs and makes an 8.6 per cent contribution to gross domestic product.

I say keeping an Australian happy is more important than that.

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