John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand // © 2014 Trenz/Murray Lloyd
New Zealand prime minister John Key is upbeat about the condition of the U.S. economy and U.S. tourism to New Zealand.
“I think the U.S. is back,” Key said during an interview session with international journalists at this year’s Trenz, a state-run annual tourism industry event. “The corporate balance sheets are strong. I know it’s been slow in terms of job recovery. But from what I understand, auto sales in the U.S. are up, and construction has started back.”
At the same time, U.S. tourism to New Zealand has been increasing over the last several years. In 2013, the country welcomed more than 207,000 U.S. visitors, a jump of 13.4 percent over the previous year.
Key said the release of director Peter Jackson’s "The Hobbit" films helped to boost American arrivals, adding that according to Box Office Mojo, an online movie publication and box office reporting service, the films — which were both shot exclusively in New Zealand — have grossed around $1 billion each worldwide.
“It gives you a bit of an idea of how far reaching those movies have been,” Key said. “What we have seen as a result of those films has been a significant number of travelers, particularly from the European and U.S. markets, indicating that they are coming to New Zealand because they’ve seen the movies. So that is one of the factors encouraging them to come down.”
According to Kevin Bowler, CEO of Tourism New Zealand, U.S. consumers will see even more marketing of the destination tied to the Dec. 17 release of the third and final film, "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies."
“We’ll spend more in the U.S. to particularly leverage the third film and make the most of that opportunity,” Bowler said. “That will include advertising in the United States to ensure that messaging very strongly connects Middle Earth and New Zealand.”
Bowler added that Tourism New Zealand also plans to allocate more funds for travel agent fam trips in 2015.
“There will be more opportunities for agents to visit New Zealand as well, and familiarize themselves with what’s on offer,” he said.