Written By: - Date published: 9:45 am, October 11th, 2012 - 18 comments
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Why is John Key strongly backing tourism as a significant export earner for NZ’s future? His trip to Hollywood was not just about promoting NZ as an international filming location. It was also intimately tied up with promoting NZ as a tourist destination. Surely, in these days of peak resources, international tourism must face an uncertain future? And why is the government so fixated on attracting US tourists?
On October 8 (Monday) the Toronto Star had a news item reporting on research done for the NZ government, which indicates economic returns from the Hobbit may not live up to expectations. Recent trends and circumstances suggest that the returns will not be as great as those gained from the LoTR trilogy.
The currency has doubled in value, hindering exports and deterring tourists that came in droves after the earlier films. …
The government is hoping the Hobbit movies will reverse a 10 per cent drop in tourist spending since 2008 and reinvigorate a film production industry that has increased about 10-fold since New Zealand film director Peter Jackson began using the country’s scenery to recreate Tolkien’s Middle Earth in 1999.
This also explains why the government has switched to the focus from 100% Pure to 100% Middle Earth in the international branding for NZ. The sycophantic TV3 and TV One News this week eagerly jumped on board the PR build up to the Hobbit red carpet celebrity circus in Wellington at the end of November. A couple of days ago TourismNZ website announced it’s launch of the first NZ 100% Middle-earth/ 100% Pure New Zealand campaign in the USA, linked to the Hobbit. This is justified by saying,
“The USA is a priority market for Tourism New Zealand, and a key market for the 100% Middle-earth campaign activity,”
This all seems to reflect John Key’s fixation on hobnobbing with the rich and powerful US elite, as shown on Campbell Live last night. However, the government doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to its own statistics show that China is growing as a significant tourism earner for NZ.
According to the International Visitors Survey table – Years ended June 2011 and 2012, Australia is the country that provides the biggest number of tourists for NZ, followed by the UK, then the US, China, Japan, Germany, the Republic of Korea. The average Chinese tourist spends more than the average Aussie, and a similar amount to the UK and US averages. In total the order of spending is as follows: Australians spend most ($1,638 mill per year approx), then UK, (approx. $570 mill) then US (approx $440 mill), then China (from $410-$500 mill – increase from 2011-2012), then Japan, Germany, and the Republic of Korea.
The uncertainties about the amount of NZ income the Hobbit movies will generate, probably explains why Key re-focused on attracting more international TV productions to NZ. It also may explain why James Cameron seemed to be playing a double game. he was helping Key in his crony capitalist, movie exec schmoozing in LA, while he has also recently been exploring making his next Avatar movie in China (as discussed by Gordon Campbell). Maybe it has Key’s blessing, with the aim to film in both China and NZ, in an attempt to attract more Chinese tourists?
This focus makes some sense as tourism is still a significant earner for New Zealand, though somewhat static, as shown for 2011 (taken from Table 3 & Figure 6 comparing 2008-2011):
- International tourism’s contribution to total exports, at $9.7 billion (16.8 percent of exports), was less than the export receipts from dairy products, including casein, which totalled $11.6 billion (19.9 percent of exports).
However, the questions still remain: Why continue to focus so strongly on selling New Zealand tourism through Hollywood productions? Surely the NZ government should to be putting this amount of effort into developing other industries?
And is targeting the US international screen industry and it’s movie-tourists really the best direction for NZ’s future?