Interest in New Zealand has surged since the release of The Hobbit. Photo: AP
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New Zealand is expected to see a surge in tourism following the release of The Hobbit movie.
Travel websites have reported a significant growth this month in searches and bookings to the country following the launch of the JRR Tolkien-inspired film.
Air New Zealand's Hobbit-themed plane. Photo: Lawrence Smith
The flight search website Skyscanner reported a 102 per cent increase in worldwide flight searches to New Zealand this month compared to December 2011, including a 117 per cent rise in searches to Wellington, the country's capital city.
The travel booking website Expedia had an 84 per cent increase in flight bookings to the country in December.
Bookings for New Zealand in 2012 went up by 30 per cent last month for hotel booking website Laterooms.com, with a 100 per cent rise in bookings for the small town of Matamata alone, where much of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and its prequel were filmed.
Bookings from the US at Air New Zealand, which launched its first Hobbit-themed aircraft last month, were nearly doubled on the day before the world premiere in Wellington and increased by a third in Japan following a Hobbit promotion, reported The New Zealand Herald.
"We have seen an increased demand for New Zealand since The Hobbit was released and this is likely to continue into the new year," said Nikki Davies, marketing director of the tour operator Trailfinders.
"Forward bookings for 2013 are up by almost 10 per cent so far this year," she added.
The foreign currency exchange group Travelex reported a rise in demand for New Zealand dollars since the Hobbit premiere this month, with a 26 per cent increase in pre-orders for New Zealand dollars compared to this time last year.
"We predict the number of visitors will rise after families watch the movie during the Christmas break and see the spectacular scenery," said David Swann from Travelex.
Travel companies have responded to the surge in interest with new Hobbit-themed itineraries and packages.
Crystal Cruises recently announced a cruise itinerary which includes a guided tour of the Hobbiton set, where passengers can dine at The Green Dragon Inn, the hobbits' favourite drinking hole in the film which is now a working pub.
Trailfinders has also introduced a new Hobbiton Express Day Tour from Auckland for 2013, which includes a journey through 'Middle Earth' and the Hobbiton set, including visits to 44 hobbit holes, the Mill and double arch bridge, the Party Tree and Green Dragon Inn.
- The Telegraph, London