Research completed by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has shown that tourism marketing efforts have had a significant and quantifiable impact on visitor arrivals.
The research was commissioned by Tourism New Zealand and it is believed to be the first time such research has been conducted.
It shows that in 2013, in New Zealand's core long-haul Western visitor markets, growth in arrivals outstripped the markets' economic recovery and growth in outbound tourism, and that New Zealand attracted more international visitors than economic factors alone could account for.
Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler says the remaining growth can reasonably be attributed to tourism marketing by the organisation and the others in the industry like Air New Zealand.
"The 6.0 per cent growth we saw for the year ending December 2013, and the continuing growth of 7.3 per cent through to year-end February 2014, is the kind of growth not seen in a decade. We wanted to know what impact our work was having on this remarkable result.
"While it is clear that improving economies and increased airline capacity are supporting tourism growth, in many countries, New Zealand's high dollar is working against this positivity."
"What NZIER found was that marketing factors were having a considerable impact in five long-haul markets. And the strongest of these factors was the impact of New Zealand's association with Middle-earth and the new Hobbit films," says Kevin.
"This finding is backed up by other evidence. The Oct-Dec 2013 International Visitor Survey (IVS) that showed 14 per cent of holiday arrivals said The Hobbit trilogy was a factor in influencing their decision to visit New Zealand.
"A decade ago in 2004, following the release of the final film in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, that figure was only six per cent.
"The Hobbiton website receives the most direct traffic from Tourism New Zealand's consumer website newzealand.com of all operators, receiving about twice as many clicks from our site as the next biggest attraction.
"And we've seen record numbers visiting Matamata and Hobbiton this past summer, running tours of around 40 tourists every 10 minutes."
Other factors considered by the NZIER included improving economic conditions following the Global Financial Crisis, exchange rates, country-specific taxes and changes in air capacity.
Kevin says that with a third movie still to be released and legacy attractions like Hobbiton in place, there is an opportunity to keep Middle-earth demand strong for some time.
"With the launch of Tourism 2025 - Growing Value Together/Whakatipu Uara Ngatahi'this week the industry is in good shape to work together to capitalise on the growth we have been achieving.
"And with the additional government funding committed to Tourism New Zealand over four years, the organisation has the resources to keep building momentum through to the end of the Middle-earth phase and beyond."
You can access the full report here.
Contact Georgina Maguire, Communications Advisor, Tourism New Zealand
Georgina.Maguire@tnz.govt.nz | phone +64 21 478 659