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New Zealand tourism chiefs hope fantasy film will bring Chinese tourists


15:32, February 27, 2013

WELLINGTON, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand tourism officials are banking on the Chinese mainland release of the fantasy film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, to further boost the country's profile in its second-largest tourism market.

Tourism New Zealand general manager Asian markets Tony Everitt said Monday the release of the film would provide a boost to New Zealand's profile that no amount of advertizing could ever buy.

The government tourism agency would hold two private screenings of the film -- one in Beijing and one in Shanghai -- for about 600 key travel agents and media representatives on Feb. 27.

"Our role will be to ensure the message that travelers to New Zealand can experience these movie-like landscapes, is heard loud and clear," Everitt said in a statement.

The agency also intended to launch a campaign based on New Zealand's location as "Middle Earth," the fictional setting of the film, in coming weeks to "convert movie goers into travelers."

"The Chinese market has already shown their enthusiasm for Middle Earth, with Yao Chen's appearance on the red carpet in Wellington at the global premiere of the movie, generating some 16, 000 comments and retweets on social media and a whopping 40 million discussion points," he said.

Tourism New Zealand brand ambassador Yao Chen was the world's most followed person on social media with 39 million followers.

The film -- the first of a trilogy -- debuted in Wellington in November last year and is based on The Hobbit, an iconic book first published in 1937 after author JRR Tolkien conceived it as a story for his children.

It was brought to the big screen by New Zealand director Peter Jackson, with assistance from the government who hope the film will do for the country what the film trilogy of the book's sequel, The Lord of the Rings (LOTR), did more a decade ago.

LOTR, also directed by Jackson and made in New Zealand, was cited as one of the main reasons for visiting New Zealand by 6 percent (120,000 to 150,000) overseas visitors who came to the country in 2004, according to Tourism New Zealand.

More than 197,000 visitors from the Chinese mainland came to New Zealand last year, a rise of 35 percent from the previous year.

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