With the release of the third film in the Hobbit trilogy, movie fans may have had their last look at Middle-earth on the big screen. Perhaps no one will be as sad to see the end of the adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's books than those in the New Zealand travel industry. The lush island country served well as the backdrop for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, and in turn, the series brought the nation a lot of attention from travellers.
High praise from Hobbit lovers
According to the New Zealand Tourism Board, 13 per cent of all people travelling to New Zealand from overseas between July 2013 and June 2014 cited "The Hobbit" as one reason why they chose to visit the country. Another 6 per cent said in 2004 that "The Lord of the Rings" influenced their decisions to visit New Zealand, while 1 per cent said that it was the main or the only reason for their trips. United States travel to New Zealand increased 14.2 per cent in that same period after being targeted by Middle-earth marketing campaigns.
The success of the Tolkien films and the marketing of New Zealand as Middle-earth certainly boosted people's interest in the country, but such dramatic results couldn't have been achieved if it didn't already have plenty to offer. New Zealand's natural beauty is what brought filmmakers there in the first place, and its scenic vistas still remain. Even the latest movie's stars offered glowing reviews of the location they had spent so much time working in.
"Spending some quality time in New Zealand has been a big part of this experience for me. Getting to travel around the place and camp and hike and kind of see what inspired Peter Jackson about his home, his home country. I'll miss the excuse to go every year, I'll go back though," Lee Pace, who played the elf Thranduil, told TVNZ.
You don't have to be a movie star to take a step into Middle-earth, though. Plenty of travel companies are capitalizing on the success of the films by creating tours based around their locations. Hobbiton Movie Set Tours offers guided trips to the set of Hobbiton, the town built to film "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," according to its website.
Hobbiton is built on the land of a traditional New Zealand sheep farm measuring 1,250 acres that's still in operation today. The tour includes iconic locations from the films, like The Green Dragon Inn, while guides provide information on the filming of the movies and the creation of the Hobbiton set. Given the Hobbits' reputation as voracious eaters, it's no surprise that the Hobbiton set now hosts plenty of options to have a meal based on traditional fare pulled from Tolkien's texts.
The Yorkshire Evening Post also recommended Hobbit fans to check out Nomad Safaris, which operates adventure travel tours for the real Middle-earth experience. Among its offerings are helicopter tours of some of the films' vast landscapes.
Follow your own path
If you'd rather follow in the furry footsteps of Bilbo Baggins yourself, without the aid of a tour guide, "The Hobbit Motion Picture Trilogy Location Guide" makes it possible. According to its publisher, HarperCollins, the guide catalogues the locations used to film the Hobbit trilogy complete with photographs and insider information. Working with the film's producers, the book's authors created a real travel guide for the fictional world of Middle-earth. The book contains maps and directions to locations used to shoot the film, as well as GPS coordinates and suggestions for where to stay along your journey.