Stefan Roesch, producer, speaker and film tourism consultant in New Zealand, in this interview introduces us to the fascinating world of film, and how it connects with destination marketing, place branding and tourism.
Stefan, do you remember the first time you thought about film in connection with tourism? What got you interested?
Yes, I do remember this very clearly. In January 2003, I came across an online news article that talked about significant numbers of The Lord of the Rings fans flocking to New Zealand in order to seek out the film locations. I was instantly fascinated and asked myself: Why on earth would you travel to the other side of the world and spend all that money on location hunting when all you get to see is an empty landscape – with no actors or film sets in it?
New Zealand has built itself a formidable reputation both as tourist destination and film(ing) location, despite its very remote location. To your mind, what makes it special – what is its secret to success?
New Zealand provides the ideal mixture of spectacular natural assets, a professional tourism infrastructure and a safe environment. On top of that are several layers of storytelling that appeal to a wide range of demographics: it is the adventure capital of the world, was the last country ever discovered and has a starring role as Middle Earth.
In your view, which feature films have most influenced the branding of New Zealand as tourist destination?
The first feature film that put New Zealand on the map was Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993). The main location of Karekare Beach is still visited by film fans today. In saying that, the promotional power of The Lord of the Rings, and to a much smaller extent The Hobbit, has been unprecedented. More than 20% of all international tourists take part in some form of Middle Earth experience every year and the Hobbiton film set has become one of the top attractions in the country, with more than 300,000 visitors a year.
Tourism New Zealand has continued to leverage off fictional film productions but Middle Earth tourism remains the driving force.
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