Via Tourism NZ is relying on hobbits to boost a flagging industry, promising that the coming Peter Jackson films will be bigger than the Rugby World Cup. But some experts warn it’s a risky strategy and not a true reflection of who we are.

They wandered past the Lake, strolled by the Party Tree and snapped pictures of Bag End.

They were mostly from Europe and North America, a handful from Asia, and they’d come to a farm of rolling hills near Matamata on a recent weekday morning to see the spot where Peter Jackson created Hobbiton.

Some said the location was on their “must-see” list; others had come on the spur of the moment. None said The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit films had influenced their decision to come to New Zealand. “It’s very expensive to come here just for the movies, you’d have to be a nerd,” says 29-year-old German backpacker Uwe Dippert.

Mexican Rosa Riojas had competed in the World Triathlon Championships and was doing some sightseeing before flying home.

“This is nice, but you have a lot of beautiful places and I think the vineyards are much more interesting – I didn’t know you produced so much wine.”

Thanks to Ringer Ataahua for the heads-up on the article!

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