The national tourism offices of Taiwan and New Zealand are expecting to cash in on the international attention attracted by new films Life of Pi and The Hobbit.
Ten years after the release of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, New Zealand is expecting Tolkien's famous characters to put the country and its landscapes in the spotlight again.
After the premiere of the first film of the trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Wednesday, the New Zealand tourism office is trying to harness the international attention New Zealand will get from the movie's international release in order to boost the number of overseas arrivals. New Zealand hosted 2.6 million tourists for the year ending June 2012.
The tourism office conducted a survey between May and July 2012 and found that 57 percent of people already considering a trip to New Zealand were aware of 'The Hobbit' trilogy. Of those aware of the films, 87 percent knew they were filmed in New Zealand, home country of the films' director Peter Jackson, and 58 percent classified themselves as 'Hobbit fans.'
In an early sign of the interest in The Hobbit destinations, more than 100 guests, mostly from Australia and the US, have paid as much as $5,354 each for a 14-day movie-premiere tour which includes a visit to Gollum's fishing pool and a costume party in Wellington.
Following the release of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, six percent of visitors to New Zealand in 2004 (around 120,000 - 150,000) cited the films as being one of the main reasons for visiting the country, while one per cent of visitors said that the film was their main or only reason for visiting. Since 2004, an average 47,000 visitors each year have visited a film location in the country.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey rolls out in cinemas worldwide starting on December 13.
Taiwan expects a 'Lord of the Rings' effect too
Further north in the Pacific Ocean, the island of Taiwan is expecting Life of Pi (based on the novel of the same name) to draw more tourism into the country. The film, directed by Oscar winner Ang Lee, was shot over four years in Taiwan and India.
Animals from Taipei Zoo, including a rhinoceros, lemurs and a Formosan black bear native to Taiwan, were also involved in filming on location in Taiwan.
Exotic locations such as the floating 'island' where Pi (the main character) stops during his journey were shot in Kenting Banyan Park. Baisha Bay, in the south of the country, stood in for a Mexican beach.
Since the film's release on November 21, the 3D movie has shot to the international box office top 5 and has grossed a total of US$30 million. The film is also currently No. 1 in India, home to three of the main cast members. In China alone the film grossed $3.5 million during the first four days.
Yang Ruey-tzhong, director of the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association's Beijing Office, told the local press Taiwan is hoping to boost its tourism through promotion of the film sites, particularly among Chinese tourists.