As a key market, China's Hobbit première was a significant event for Tourism New Zealand to be involved with. The final piece of the trilogy puzzle provided further opportunity for Tourism New Zealand to leverage the connection the film has to New Zealand, and leave a footprint of Middle-earth culture in China.
At the red carpet event at the UME cinema, Beijing, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies premièred on 20 January. Sir Peter Jackson, co-producer and screenwriter Philippa Boyens and actor Richard Armitage, who plays dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield, were all in attendance.
Three days prior to the première a pre-screening was shown to media, including a select number of travel media. David Craig, Tourism New Zealand's General Manager Asia, was pleased with the level of media interest shown throughout the week.
"The media was keen to find out more about our film tourism industry and the China market's interest in New Zealand," says David.
The Hobbit Trilogy has given Tourism New Zealand a unique opportunity to market New Zealand as a visitor destination by maximising the attention of the third largest movie franchise in history. Tourism New Zealand's marketing activity has worked to demonstrate how easy it is for people to come to New Zealand, experience it first-hand and have their own Middle-earth journey.
The day prior to the Beijing première, 200 media attended a press conference and the New Zealand Ambassador-designate hosted a VIP cocktail event for 70 people including Sir Peter Jackson, Sir Richard Taylor, Warner Brothers Group representatives, Chinese film officials and other Chinese companies.
The Battle of the Five Armies has also drawn much attention from Chinese fans. It shot to number one at the box office since its general release a couple of days after the première. As at 1 February, ticket sales had reached a huge $NZ115 million.
"This shows the popularity of The Hobbit in China. By aligning ourselves with it, Tourism New Zealand can communicate that by visiting New Zealand, potential visitors can experience the spectacular landscapes and scenery shown in the films first hand."
And it's not just the box office that's booming.
"We know that Middle-earth as NZ has raised New Zealand's profile as a great place to visit. Tourism New Zealand research shows that 13 per cent of all international visitors surveyed in the year to June 2014 say that The Hobbit was a factor in stimulating their interest in New Zealand as a destination," says David.
The latest International Visitor Arrivals for the 2014 calendar year show strong growth out of China with Chinese visitor arrivals to New Zealand up 15.7 per cent on 2013, reaching a total of 264,864.
"The connection between Middle-earth and New Zealand is strong and it's driving demand from people all over the world to visit and experience New Zealand for themselves. China is no exception."