Location, location, vacation

By Toby Manhire In The Internaut

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Wellington renamed itself for the Hobbit premiere.

Whether or not you think the New Zealand as Middle-earth stuff has been mawkish, it seems to have worked.

Research showing increased numbers of long-haul visitors refected reward for a number of marketing efforts, said Tourism NZ boss Kevin Bowler in a release this morning, but “the strongest of these factors was the impact of New Zealand’s association with Middle-earth and the new Hobbit films”.

Increasingly, it seems that film locations are a major boon to tourism promoters – a kind of grand-scale product placement.

In Variety, Todd Longwell points to an unlikely new example of the enterprise:

Can terrorism promote tourism? If the terrorism is on TV, the answer is yes.

The revived Fox series “24: Live Another Day” is shooting all 12 of its episodes in London through June, and although the Kiefer Sutherland starrer portrays the British capital as a city in the grips of terrorists, Adrian Wootton, CEO of government promo org Film London, is optimistic that the show will encourage more tourists to visit

“There are going to be a lot of iconic locations because they really want to get that distinct authenticity into the production,” Wootton enthuses. “For us, that’s going to be a fantastic piece of marketing when it starts airing on the Fox Network.”

The Tolkien experience in New Zealand remains the template, however.

Variety quotes another Tourism NZ represenative, Gregg Anderson, who explains that the relationship with Warner Bros in the Hobbit went that bit further than with New Line for Lord of the Rings.

“When we worked with New Line (the studio behind the first trilogy), it was on small initiatives,” he says. With Warner Bros. “it was sitting down in a strategic partnership and understanding what properties we could use, how we could leverage it.”

That included incorporating the catchphrase “New Zealand 100% Middle-Earth” into a destination campaign, accompanied by maps and illustrations created by a storyboard artist from Jackson’s Weta Workshop. At the same time, Jackson partnered with the owners of the farm that served as the setting for the village of Hobbiton and turned it into a permanent tourist attraction, pictured above, complete with a working pub, the Green Dragon Inn.

But the biggest boost may have come from Warner Bros. holding the world premiere of the first “Hobbit” film in Wellington, New Zealand, where Jackson is headquartered. “When the media junket happened, the actors didn’t talk about to playing Frodo or other Hobbits” Anderson recalls. “They talked about how they’d really like to move to New Zealand. It was just huge.”

Still waiting to see Tourism NZ try to take advantage of The Top of the Lake, however. That level of grimness – albeit against a background of beauty – might be a challenge beyond even TV-terrorism-tourism.

See also: John Key and his Hobbit sword make the NY Times front page

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