Muppets shine spotlight on Wellington

They say it isn’t easy being green – unless of course you’re Kermit the Frog exploring the Coolest Little Capital in the coolest little country in the world.

Kermit, the Muppets and some of their Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock pals are in Wellington this month for the Jim Henson Restrospectacle, celebrating the life and work of the much-loved Muppet’s creator.

New Zealand’s natural environment and hospitality is proving popular with the American personalities, who said they’d already fallen in love with our country at a press conference with Bret McKenzie on Monday.

“We love New Zealand, it’s so beautiful here,” said Sesame Street’s Ernie.

“It’s very green, and that is important to me,” said Kermit.

The duo says their experience with New Zealanders has already left a lasting impression.

“I’ve only been here a few days, but gosh I’d love to take the people of New Zealand home,” says Ernie. “They’re so wonderful, I’d love to take them home with me but I didn’t bring enough luggage to fit ‘em all.”

Kermit agreed, saying: “Everyone’s so friendly. We’ve met so many new friends here.”

Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive, Stephen England-Hall says this is something he hopes to hear from all international visitors.

“Manaakitanga, or Kiwi hospitality, is something uniquely New Zealand that brings visitors back time and time again,” says Mr England-Hall.

“For many international visitors, New Zealand is a once-in-a-lifetime trip so it’s fantastic to hear they have such warm experiences that they can then share with friends and family.

“After their experience this week, I hope we’ll get the opportunity to welcome Kermit and Ernie and their friends back again soon.”

The stars say they’ll be exploring Wellington’s sights during their downtime.

Kermit says he’s interested in visiting the seal colony at Red Rocks for business purposes: “It might be fun to see, but I am also thinking about auditioning a few seals for our next show. You know, because we’re always looking for new talent.”

Ernie is planning to visit the Cuba Street bucket fountain – “Because that’s always been on my bucket list” – and the diving platform on Wellington’s waterfront.

He also had plans with Bert to visit Zealandia, the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary on Monday to see if they could find some of Big Bird’s relatives. Instead, they reportedly found the actual Big Bird and bilingual Muppet, Rosita.

Miss Piggy was absent from press events on Monday, as she was allegedly out enjoying Wellington’s shopping scene.

As a result of this visit, New Zealand will be showcased to a following of more than one million fans – primarily in the United States – through Bird Bird and Sesame Street’s social media pages. Content from the visit will also be shared through Tourism New Zealand’s international media platform.

“North America is incredibly important to the New Zealand tourism industry as our third-largest visitor market,” says Mr England-Hall. “For almost 50 years, these characters have been some of the most popular – and most iconic – on American television. As trusted icons, their experiences of New Zealand will have a wide reach and hopefully inspire those dreaming of a holiday here to make it a reality.”

For the year ending March 2018, there were 224,720 holiday visitors from the USA. This contributed an estimated $952 million to New Zealand’s economy.

The sold-out Jim Henson Retrospectacle Live in Concert is brought to Wellington by Square Eyes and The Jim Henson Legacy. The Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency and the New Zealand Major Events Development Fund, of which Tourism New Zealand is a panel member.