Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Zealand's latest tourist center is Hobbity, awesome

And you thought The Denny's Hobbit menu was cool

The tourism industry of New Zealand has been on overdrive since The Lord of the Rings trilogy wrapped up in 2003, but it has started to sag in recent years. While many fans were initially eager to visit the filming locations and The Shire itself, the cost and logistics of actually getting oneself to New Zealand rapidly began to erode the cool factor.

All of this began to turn around when trailers for Peter Jackson's first Hobbit film started popping up online. A decision was soon made to turn The Hobbit into the main focus of the tourism industry, and soon the country's '100% Pure New Zealand' slogan was replaced with '100% Middle Earth'.

This didn't sit well with many of the Maori locals who felt like their culture was being brushed aside - and New Zealand's issuing of Hobbit-themed legal currency probably didn't help them sleep any better at night.

These same locals may want to steer well-clear of Matamata, then. Already a haven for Tolkien fans from across the world (that's where The Shire is located, after all!), Matamata is set to unveil major renovations to its i-SITE Gatehouse tourism center on November 29th in an orgiastic celebration of all things Tolkien.

The existing tourism center is being given a $200,000 facade to give it a more "Tolkien" feel. To make sure that the facade fits with the look of The Lord of the Rings movies, the Matamata Public Relations Association hired Brian Massey, the art director on The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, to oversee the design and construction.

Suffice it to say that New Zealand is committed to this whole "100% Middle Earth" thing...

Incidentally, these i-SITE centers are an absolute godsend if you're travelling around New Zealand. Many will give you great local advice on what to see and where to go, and they're as like to hand out free maps as they are to sell you high quality topographical ones.  Added bonus: they're scattered around every town, major and minor and usually have free public bathrooms!