New Zealand’s Destination Promotion: A Case Study on the Impact of the Film‘Lord of the Rings’ on Tourism

New Zealand’s Destination Promotion: A Case Study on the Impact of the Film‘Lord of the Rings’ on Tourism

The chapter is part of Media Management in Communicating Tourism: Edited Essays (ISBN: 9781648054341).

Dr. Debastuti Dasguptaa, Grishma Raj Ariyalb


With the rise in number of travelers around the globe at 1.4 billion global travelers by the end of 2019, the global tourism industry contributes $8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy.  With such growth, the government and different stakeholders of tourism industry are constantly marketing their destination through various channels as tourism has positively contributed to a country’s economic progress. In this light, destination tourism induced by films has been one of the key strategies used by tourism marketers and the government to promote a specific destination.Being increasingly aware of the international release of the film ‘Lord of the Rings’(LoR), Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) aligned its promotional strategy to draw tourists in their country.

This study reviews articles, research papers, economic surveys and analysis related to TNZ destination promotion strategy and its socio – economic impact on New Zealand’s tourism. This case study analyzes the destination promotion strategy undertaken by TNZ, and the subsequent impact on New Zealand’s tourism generated by promoting its destination in the movie LoR.

Keywords: Destination Promotion, Tourism New Zealand, Global Tourism, Film Induced Tourism

a – Assistant Profesor, Asutosh College, Kolkata
b – Freelance Visual Communication Trainer, Nepal


Destination marketing is a type of marketing that promotes a destination (town, city, region, country) with a purpose to increase the number of visitors. In other words, destination marketing is advertising a location to promote tourism of the specific area. Unlike marketing a physical product where consumers buy a product which is delivered through different distribution channels, destination marketing persuades a consumer to visit a location. Destination marketing has received considerable attention over the last couple of years as it contributes to a country’s economy, creates job and provides a platform for cross cultural influences.

Like in any marketing, a successful destination marketing mix also has the four P’s i.e the Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

The Product in destination marketing corresponds to various activities tourists can engage themselves while visiting a destination like adventure, sports, sightseeing, food etc. Likewise, price is the cost a tourist has to incur while visiting a destination, which influences their decision while selecting different locations to visit. Similarly, place corresponds to the physical location, its accessibility, availability of transportation etc. Lastly, Promotion refers to how well a certain location has been promoted through digital and traditional media.

This paper, out of the four marketing mix will focus on the promotion mix to study how movies can promote a particular destination. The paper will analyze the strategies of Tourism New Zealand to promote New Zealand through the movie Lord of the Ring.

Film tourism is relatively new in the field of tourism. It is seen from various literatures that film can have strong influence on tourist decision making process. Film does not give only short term revenue but long term affluence to the destination

The movie Lord of the Ring (LoR) is a fantasy fiction where human co – existed with elves and dwarves.  The story of LoR begins with the history of the power of rings, which were distributed to humans, elves and dwarves. However, one ring was the most powerful which was made by dark lord Sauron, by which he could rule every other creature in the fictitious world. However, the dark lord loses the ring which is dropped in the ocean, and years after found by the hobbits who are depicted as peaceful creatures.

However, having known the hobbits own the ring, an uprising among various creatures starts to gain the ownership of the ring.

Throughout the film, the adventure of one of the main character Gandalf, who has supernatural powers and an ally of the hobbits are shown in the movie, taking him to different shoot locations in New Zealand. The movie depicts the beauty of the country with organic images of New Zealand. 

Literature Review 

Film tourism is a growing area as the entertainment industry is growing parallel with tourism industry (Hudson, Ritchie, 2006).According to Hudson and Ritchie (2006), film tourism is characterized as tourist visits to a place or fascination, thus, of the destination being highlighted on TV, video, or the silver screen.There are many opportunities for a tourism marketers to promote a destination during a release of the movie, and can also encourage many industries related to tourism to promote their business by persuading visitors to travel to the destination.

According to Morgan and Pritchard (1998), placing a destination in a film is the ultimate in tourism product placement. Product placement is an emerging phenomenon, and has been defined as the planned entries of products into movies or television shows that may influence viewers’ product beliefs and/or behaviors favorably (Balasubramanian 1994). Its growth has been spurred by the diminishing effectiveness of traditional advertising techniques (Kaikati and Kaikati 2004), and marketers are realizing that communications via product placement can be more sophisticated, more targeted, and more widely seen than traditional advertising methods (Karrh, McKee, and Pardun 2003).

Many researches points to the fact that product placement can have greater impact with program audiences than is typically found with comparable advertising exposures (Karrh, McKee, and Pardun 2003), and some researchers have found that a simple visual placement in the background can be as effective as a highly integrated placement (Russell 2002).

Films, through its visual means have an impact on destination image if the location plays a part in a film. However, as many business groups have started to place their destination in movies, the competition in destination promotion is fierce. Therefore, a destination must be favorably differentiated from its competition and positively positioned in the minds of consumers (Pike and Ryan 2004; Echtner and Ritchie 1991; Joppe, Martin, and Waalen 2001). Schofield (1996) suggested that in the minds of contemporary tourists’ organic images of a destination can form a favorable image of a destination.

Likewise, according to a study titled, “Promoting Destinations via Film Tourism: An Empirical Identification of Supporting Marketing Initiatives”, (Ritchie) there are four types of activities where film promotion can play a crucial role in destination promotion, which are as follows:

  • Practical efforts to encourage producers and studios to film at the location
  • Effort to generate Media Publicity around film and its location.
  • Marketing undertakings that promote the film location after production  
  • Peripheral marketing activities that influence film tourism potential.

Similarly, another paper titled, “Movies as a tool of Modern Tourist Marketing”,  establishes that there exists a relationship between cinema and tourism because of the common characteristic of both the industries being a means of escape. It also declares that people choose their tourist destinations with what they saw in audio visual platforms like cinema and television. This can voluntary or involuntary have an influence on the people. Another finding is that there is a link between tourism in destinations and its placements in the movie.(Nikolaos Vagionis, 2011)

Similarly, and article published on travel website tries to elaborate the role played by the movies in attracting tourists towards a particular tourist destination. It further states that movies are encouraging tourism by promoting the locations shown in them. This has led to a steady increase in the number of visitors arriving at the destinations. The article justify its statement by referring to a global benchmark survey TRAVELSAT Competitive Index which declared its findings that around 40 million of international tourists chose their destination mostly because they saw a film shot in that country. 

In a similar manner, a recent research titled Film – Induced Tourism: A systematic Literature Review concludes that perceptions of tourism destination vary in accordance with the type of film and film induced tourism, city branding and image of a place, boosting number of visitors and generating favorable economic impact (Cardoso Estevalo Fernandes Alves, 2017). However, the same research also states that sometimes film induced tourism can also bring negative impact to the community.

There have been few examples where film induced tourism on one hand has increased the number of tourists but on the other hand has put enormous pressure on the environment. According to an article published in Financial express, the surge in tourism in a Indian district of Ladakh after a famous Bollywood movie 3 Idiots has put pressure on eco – sensitive zones). (Surge in tourism after Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots puts pressure on eco-sensitive zone, Ladakh opts for new sustainable ways, 2019)


The methodology includes reviewing articles, research papers, economic surveys and analysis related to TNZ destination promotion strategy and its socio – economic impact on New Zealand’s tourism. This case study analyzes the destination promotion strategy undertaken by TNZ, and the subsequent impact on New Zealand’s tourism generated by promoting its destination in the movie LoR.

Tourism New Zealand and its Tie up with the Movie Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings is a film series of three epic fantasy adventure films directed by Peter Jackson, based on the novel written by J. R. R. Tolkien. The films are subtitled The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003). Produced and distributed by New Line Cinema with the co-production of WingNut Films, it is an international venture between New Zealand and the United States. The three films were shot  simultaneously and entirely in Jackson’s native New Zealand from 11 October 1999 until 22 December 2000, with pick-up shots done from 2001 to 2004. It was one of the biggest and most ambitious film projects ever undertaken, with a budget of $281 million. An extended edition of each film was released on home video a year after its theatrical release.

The Lord of the Rings is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential film trilogies ever made. It was a major financial success and is among the highest-grossing film series of all time with over $2.9 billion in worldwide receipts. Each film was critically acclaimed and heavily awarded, winning 17 out of their 30 Academy Award nominations.

The movie was shot in over 150 real New Zealand locations were used from the rolling green hills of Matamata in the North Island; Hobbiton, to Queenstown’s snowy jagged mountain peaks; the Remarkables, featured as Dimrill Dale.

Filming Location: Canterbury, New  Zealand
Filming Location: Mount Victoria, New Zealand

TNZ’s Strategy of Movie Promotion

As tourism is one of the major industries of New Zealand, the country is focusing on getting more tourists to develop its economy through tourism. According to TNZ, more than 2.6 million tourists visits new Zealand in 2013 and the number is on rise since then.

One of  the major reasons of high number of tourists in the country is often attributed to TNZ’s campaign of 100% pure New Zealand, which was reinforced through organic filming location of the movie Lord of the Rings in New Zealand. The TNZ conducted following activities to promote its destination through LoR:

  1. Promotion in website

The TNZ website homepage had the shots from the movie location which represented its campaign of 100% Pure New Zealand. The example is shown as below:

Official Website
  • Travel Agency Promotion

Travel agencies in New Zealand promoted the movie in their promotional and PR activities like seminars, advertisements, and other communication collaterals. In this way, the message of 100% Pure New Zealand was reinforced even stronger.

  • Crew Members and Actors Endorsements

The PR campaign of TNZ also focused on how the crew members and the actors were spending time on the movie location as the actors had huge influence over media. The international media followed these celebrities and covered stories about on how they were spending time at the shoot location showcasing the organic sceneries of New Zealand. The stories were covered by prominent news outlets like USA Today, the New York Post, The Denver Post, and the Chicago Tribune

  • Developing Maps to indicate shoot location:

The TNZ developed and promoted special maps of New Zealand, where they indicated which locations were used to shoot the movie.   

Impact on New Zealand’s Tourism

According to George Hickton, CEO of TNZ, the tourism in New Zealand rose by 10% after the international release of the movie Lord  of the Rings, making New Zealand one of the rare countries where tourism increased after the terrorist attack on 9/11. However, other officials from TNZ have claimed that tourists increased by 50% post the release of the movie.

According to General Manager of  Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, it is estimated that Lord of the Rings added value of $50 million to $500 million annually (Financial Times, 2015). Similarly, according to a specialist tour firm, Bridge of the world that specializes in touring LoR film location reported that film site sales was selling twice as fast. 

Similarly, according to online news portal 19% of the tourist visiting New Zealand have responded that LoR has influenced their decision to visit New Zealand (Flaws, 2019). 


The influence of movies among the viewers in even choosing the destinations for their vacations is amply clear from the amount of studies being conducted in this field, some of which were reviewed for this paper. The result indicates that there is a significant relationship between the release of the movie LoR and increasing tourists in New Zealand. The TNZ’s strategy to integrate film location pictures on its websites, through tour operators, and airlines has arguably created a positive result for New Zealand’s tourism. Its PR strategy, which promoted the idea of 100% pure New Zealand, was perfectly reflected in various scenes of the movie. Therefore, the TNZ tie up with the movie LoR is a case which serves as examples for other countries to promote their destination through movies.

Through the movie LoR, New Zealand received several names given by the fans. It became a phenomenon among the fans as New Zealand was known as middle earth as depicted in the movie. Additionally, the phrase Tolken Tourism (which means a group of fans wanting to visit LoR shooting sites) became popular phrase for describing New Zealand’s tourism and its impact on the country’s economy.


Balasubramaniam, S. (1994). Beyond Advertising and Publicity:Hybrid Messages and Public Policy Issues. Journal of Advertising, 29-47.

Cardoso, L. Estevado, C. Fernandes, C. Alves,H (2017). Film Induced Tourism: A Systematic Literature review.

Echtner, C. M. (1991). The meaning and measurement of destination image. Journal of Tourism Studies, 2-12.

Flaws, B.(2019). New Zealand Tourism Needs to reboot with new Lord of the Rings series.  Retrieved on 27th October 2019

Kaikati, A. M. (2004). Stealth Marketing:How to ReachConsumers Surreptitiously. California Management Review, 6-22.

Karrh, J. A. (2003). Practitioners’EvolvingViews on Product Placement Effectiveness. Journal of Advertising Research, 138-149.


Pike, S. a. (2004). Destination positioning analysis through a comparison of cognitive,. Journal of Travel Research, 333-342.

RITCHIE, S. H. (n.d.). Promoting Destinations via Film Tourism:An Empirical Identification of Supporting Marketing Initiatives. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from

Russell, C. A. (2002). Investigating the Effectiveness of Product Placementsin Television Shows:The Role of Modality and Plot ConnectionCongruence in Brand Memory and Attitude. Journal of Consumer Research, 306-319.

Smyth, J. (2015). New Zealand looks Beyond Last Hobbit. Financial Times Retrieved on 26th October,2019

 Surge in tourism after Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots puts pressure on eco-sensitive zone, Ladakh opts for new sustainable ways. (2019, April 4). Retrieved Ocotber 27, 2019, from Financial Times:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *