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Selling New Zealand: 100% Muddle-Urf

Written By: - Date published: 9:45 am, October 11th, 2012 - 18 comments
Categories: business, Conservation, economy, exports, film, jobs, john key, overseas investment, sustainability, tourism, trade, tv - Tags: ,

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?


18 comments on “Selling New Zealand: 100% Muddle-Urf”

  1. shorts 1

    I love movies and have gone and visited exactly 0 locations/countries where my favourite movies were made

    Are we selling NZ Tourism or promoting a hollywood movie?

    • Lanthanide 1.1

      “I love movies and have gone and visited exactly 0 locations/countries where my favourite movies were made”

      Are you an affluent upper-middle class American who is looking for a novel holiday experience? No? Then you’re not the target market for this.

      • shorts 1.1.1

        no I’m not… and I blame the govt for my plight

        so rich Americans are the Hobbits target market… surely showing off (target marketing) our over priced exclusive tourist lodges would be more appealing to them rich types…

    • Descendant Of Smith 1.2

      I’m continually tempted to go to Portmeririon where The Prisoner was filmed.

      • DS1 1.2.1

        I wanted to go to Airstrip 1, but then it came to me.

      • Hilary 1.2.2

        I did go to Portmeirion many years ago but didn’t spend any money there – just admired the buildings, and the beach that looks like a NZ one. On the other hand my tourist destination of choice was Scandinavia to see what wealthy social democracies are like.

    • vto 1.3

      I enjoy visiting the Goodbye Pork Pie location

  2. karol 2

    I’m pretty sure I read somewhere recently that only a small percentage (maybe 7%) of tourists come to NZ for movie locations.  I think the Middle Earth link is about using NZ scenery on the big screen as a branding for NZ – to attract people to the country.  Threy say.
    But research shows that 63% of NZ tourism’s target market are aware of the connection:

    “Our latest research told us that there is a 63 per cent level of awareness of the film amongst out target market, and we expect a significant increase in interest from the Americas with the release of The Hobbit movie in December. All of our activity in market is working to convert this interest into a trip to New Zealand.”

    Using the 100% Middle-earth creative and leveraging Tourism New Zealand’s other activity in market, the campaign will drive the message that the cinematic fantasy world of Middle-earth, is in fact the reality of New Zealand, and inspire Americans to visit.

    But they also say that, once here, NZ needs to provide other activities, not just visits to movie locations.  It seems to me to be a shaky case of the Middle Earth branding .

  3. Jokerman 3

    It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us.

    -Isaac D’Israeli

  4. OneTrack 4

    “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?”

    What do you mean? Key spent a day or two in the US and the tourism NZ stuff looks a minor variation on what they would usually do, movie or no movie.

    Hardly a strong focus.

    • OneTrack 4.1

      Or do you just not like Hobbits?

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.1

        Hobbits are fine as long as they are unionised. Hobbit scabs should be fed to Mount Doom.

      • karol 4.1.2

        I have nothing against Hobbits, but I do have something against Hobbit laws.  And I do have something against the way NZ is being branded for the US movie and tourist industries. 
        And if you want to know what it is I don’t like about the (so-called) Hobbit law, take  a look at this:
        It’s a Gordon Campbell article, in the latest edition of Werewolf, just published today.  Campbell has got hold of a contract for NZ actors performing in Power Ranges, filming now in Auckland. It’s a contract of indentured servitude.

        The preamble to the contract document for instance, says that the performer has to be available anytime between I October 2012, and 10 May 2013 (by my reckoning, a period of 222 days) but “shall be guaranteed a minimum of 20 (twenty) not necessarily consecutive days” during that production cycle. These “working days” are 12 hours in duration, with a 45 minute lunch break. There’s a week of preparation that the performer is also expected to donate to the production free of charge :

        And the listed points Campbell elaborates on includes:
        1. Extra Duties, No Pay

        2. The 60% Clause.

        Under clause 2.5 if the producer decides to re-record any number of dialogue lines, this will be done by the performer for free in addition to their normal work if scheduled on a designated Working Day for the performer – otherwise, the performers can be called in and paid only 60% of their ordinary daily rate, for recording sessions of up to five hours duration.

        3. No Residuals.
        4. Use of Identity, Throughout The Universe.
        5 Morality, Behaviour and Physical Appearance :

        Campbell elaborates on all these points, and more.


        • Draco T Bastard

          More and more contracts are starting to look like that. The scary thing is that people are signing them because they have no choice.

    • Colonial Viper 4.2

      No wonder Key is bleeding support in all directions.

  5. Maui 5

    I have a concrete solution for Key’s problems.

    1. He creates the position of Minister for Hollywood, then promptly appoints himself.

    2. He petitions the next US President and Congress for inclusion of NZ as 52nd state of the Union.

    3. The voters are consulted at a convenient date.

    4. Te Papa is relocated to the Bishop Museum in Hawai’i

    5. He gets a guest role in of Sir Peter Jackson’s forthcoming productions.

    Is everybody happy ?

  6. Populuxe1 6

    And why is the government so fixated on attracting US tourists?

    I’m pretty damned sure that LOTR had a much bigger audience than just the US http://books.google.co.nz/books/about/Watching_the_Lord_of_the_Rings.html?id=5XOL49zCAHEC&redir_esc=y
    and tourism is worth NZ$23 billion a year to New Zealand’s economy. I’m guessing that’s probably why.

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