Sir Ian McKellen stars as Gandalf in the 'Hobbit' movies.
Air New Zealand says it is already benefiting from The
Hobbit, even before the movie's wide release.
The airline paid for the rights to be the "official airline
of Middle-earth" and has staked much of its marketing push
for the next two years on the trilogy accompanied by themed
planes and passenger experiences.
Bookings in the United States almost doubled the day before
last week's world premiere in Wellington and bookings were up
by a third in Japan following a Hobbit promotion.
And Tourism New Zealand, which is spending $10 million
promoting The Hobbit trilogy, says visits to its website
using Hobbit-related keywords were up 265 per cent last month
compared with the previous three-month average.
Air New Zealand's deputy chief executive Norm Thompson said
the response had been significant, especially in the US.
The airline runs "cyber Monday" promotions there, offering
deals to top up flights and last week, when its website
featured its Hobbit marketing, bookings increased 95 per
Just on 600 extra seats were sold than on other cyber
He said The Hobbit appeared to be a catalyst for those who
wanted to visit taking the plunge.
"The States is a frustrating market," Thompson said.
"There's a hell of a lot of people who want to come here but
want to come here one day.
"Being able to hook into something like The Hobbit encourages
them to tip over the line and make a commitment."
Those bookings were for the March to September low season.
In Japan there was a surge of bookings coinciding with a
48-hour "Hobbit-size" fares promotion.
In Europe the response had been slower, where there had been
increased interest in the airline's website but not so much
conversion to buying tickets, Thompson said.
Air New Zealand was expecting tens of millions of dollars in
extra revenue from the movies, not only for the next two
years as the trilogy is released but for the lifetime of the
J.R.R. Tolkien theme.
"In Japan people are still talking about the Lord of the
Rings - it's quite enduring."
The airline paid Warner Bros to use imagery from the movies
as part of its overall marketing budget.
Thompson said critics of the big Hobbit push "had to get on
"We wouldn't do it if we felt it was doing damage to our
brand or the country. It's a bit like Rugby World Cup - you
get behind it."
One Queenstown jet boat operator's tours pass the "misty
mountains" area featured in the Lord of the Rings and which
was the site of filming for The Hobbit.
Nigel Kerr, the marketing manager from Dart River Jet
Safaris, said while the Hobbit movies would be good for the
country, it was difficult to tell how his business would
"We know we're going to appear but it's a matter when and how
much. You can't assume anything until you're on the screen."
Queenstown four-wheel-drive operator David Gatward-Ferguson
from Nomad Safaris, said the vanguard of Hobbit fans was
starting to arrive.
Sales of Hobbit merchandise in the town had picked up and one
or two busloads of fans who had been at the premiere were
arriving this week.
- Grant Bradley of the New Zealand Herald