Influence of the Lord of the Rings on tourism in New Zealand

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An increase in international travel and a growth of the entertainment industry both have a share in the growing phenomenon called ‘film based tourism’ (Hudson & Brent Richie, 2006).

Film tourism includes more than only a visit to a theme park. For example, Disneyland Resort Paris a well known park where Mickey Mouse and his friends can be found.

Now, film tourism included an actual visit of the locations which are used in films or television programs.

The film has an influence on tourist how they notice the world and they visit the places to experience the image that the people have seen on the screen (Carl, 2004).

Nowadays promoting a destination via films has become more popular than ever. Locations which are used in successful films can count on an increase in the number of visitors. (Hudson & Brent Richie, 2006).

To be more specific this report will focus on how ‘the Lord of the Rings’ films based on the novels written by J.R.R. Tolkien, has influenced the tourism in New Zealand.

Firstly, film based tourism in general will be explained to give some more detailed insight into the topic. Secondly, the positive as well as the negative impacts of the films will be discussed.

What is film tourism?

The topic film based tourism (also referred to film-induced tourism) is a quite new phenomenon, but there is a lack of specific studies about this subject. Most of the literature which has been written is mainly focused on the marketing aspect. This means that the films are used as marketing tools to promote specific destinations (Beeton, 2005).

The main issue in this direction is to understand which strategies are needed to reach this goal to make film an effective and a successful destination marketing tool.

Nowadays the development of the DVD can help to reach this goal, because it is being used by global audience.

Film – Induced Tourism by Sue Beeton in 2005 was the first written literature about the development in tourism through films (Tzanelli, 2007).

Sue Beeton defines that film tourism includes a visit to the location, where films and television programs have been shot as well as tours to production studios and film festivals (Beeton, 2005).

Hudson and Brent Ritchie said that film based tourism can be defined as:

“Tourist visits to a destination or attraction as a result of the destination’s being featured on television, video, or the cinema screen.” (Hudson & Brent Richie, 2006).

In short both definitions mean the same tourist visit places where television programs and films were recorded.

Tourists who are only travelling to see the sites where films have been film are also called: ‘set jetters’.

These film sites can be visited for various reasons: the landscape or scenery of the film location, the actors, and the characters of the film location itself.

Positive impacts

In the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy the hobbit Frodo Baggins plays the lead role, together with his Fellowship he will be followed in the fictional world: ‘the Middle Earth’. Frodo has to destroy the Ring and make sure that Dark Lord Sauron will be killed. The Fellowship can be divided into his best friend Sam and the annoying Gollum. The wizards Aragom and Gandalf together they are all fighting in the War of the Ring (Lord of the Rings, 2003).

“You can argue that the Lord of the Rings was the best unpaid advertisement that New Zealand has ever had” remarks Bruce Lahood, manager of Tourism New Zealand (Gilsdorf, 2008).

After the international release of ‘the Lord of the Rings’ trilogy the tourism in New Zealand had a boost from 1.7 million tourists in 2000 it increased to 2.4 million. As a result, New Zealand has been the last 10 years the most successful country which benefits from film tourism (Gilsdorf, 2008).

The popularity of ‘the Lord of the Rings’ has given the tourism industry in New Zealand the idea to offer tours in which people could visit the specific sites where the films has been recorded.

These film tours have nothing to do with the films, because they are independent; it is only a reaction on the increasing numbers of tourists who were interested to visit these places after seeing a specific film (The University of Queensland, 2004).

When it was announced that ‘the Lord of the Rings’ would be filmed in New Zealand, the government appointed a special ‘Minister of the Rings’. His job was to make sure that the benefits of the film concerned for the complete country. For example, the employment and more in general to promote the film tourism (Beeton, 2005).

Since then, the government of New Zealand has been aware of the advantages; such as a tourism boost of a huge film project

Besides, they offer tax breaks and other measurements to make it more appealing for film productions to come back and have a look (Clark, 2001).

New Zealand had some historically and image problems. But after the release of ‘Lord of the Rings’ films, more tourists who had visit New Zealand told their friends and relatives that the country is certainly worth a visit. In this way the country will have more and more tourists every day (Ardlige, 2002).

There are also direct impacts which refer to the expenditure of film and television production in a specific location. For example, transportation, catering, crew accommodation and other services which are needed in the beginning of making a new film.

Negative impacts

Generally, the increase of tourism is positive, because there is a simple rule which concludes the following; more tourists means more income. But the increase of the number of tourists, who visit New Zealand after seeing ‘the Lord of the Rings’, has got a downside as well.

As mentioned before, the government of New Zealand offers tax breaks to film makers to make it more appealing to visit New Zealand. However, these breaks will lead to revenue losses and the money the government spends cannot be used for the local economy (Beeton, 2005).

Beeton announced in her book “that tourism carries with the seeds of its own destruction.”

Above all, she is worried about the impact that tourism can have on the location, local community and environment (Beeton, 2005).

‘The Lord of the Rings’ has led to a huge number of tourists who are going to New Zealand to visit the sites. As result of this unexpected mass tourism, the environment can easily be damaged. Moreover, it is not that difficult for the country to notice the positive short-term effects for the local economy. But it is hard to notice the long – term environmental damage, from which it will take a lot of time and money to recover it (S-Cool, 2008).

The development of the countries’ own identity and image can be traced down by ‘the Lord of the Rings’. For example, tourists visiting New Zealand have little perception about what New Zealand would look like. Most people expect to experience New Zealand as the ‘Middle Earth’: the world where ‘the Lord of the Ring’ has been set in. The impact of this is that the real identity and image of New Zealand is getting lost.

And last but not least, the local cultures can also be affected by the mass tourism that the film induced tourism creates. For example, they are influenced by the behaviour of for example European tourists (S-Cool, 2008).


To sum up, film tourism is an upcoming phenomenon and today it is becoming more popular for tourists to choose the holiday destination and pay a visit to the locations where their favourite film has been recorded. Nevertheless, there is still a lack of specific studies about this topic. As a result, the existing literature has mainly focused on the marketing aspect. Therefore, further research is needed in the future.

Since the international release of the film ‘the Lord of the Rings’ it has got some positive impact on the tourism in New Zealand, such as the huge tourism boost. This can be proven, because the international tourists’ arrivals in the country have been doubled.

‘The Lord of the Ring’ also had some other advantages on the tourism industry in New Zealand. For example the development of tours which guides tourist along the spots of the film.

Film tourism has also got negative impacts on the environment of New Zealand. Mainly because of the unexpected mass tourism, it is hard to notice the long-term environmental damage, which will take a lot of time and money to recover from.

In my opinion the development of the real identity and image of New Zealand will be traced down through the popularity of ‘the Lord of the Rings’. The ‘Tolkien’ tourist has got little perception of New Zealand, and they will notice that the landscape and atmosphere is different than they have seen on the screen. The scenery will not turn out to be just like ‘the Middle Earth’, set in the world of ‘the Lord of the Rings’.

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