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Tourists' Experiences of Film Locations: New Zealand as 'Middle-Earth'

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Over a decade ago it was noted that there was a lack of academic research on film-induced tourism. A number of studies since have explored this phenomenon and the benefits, both during production and after cinematic release, for host destinations. As an example, The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) film trilogy has exposed New Zealand to a global audience of potential travellers. By packaging and promoting it as the 'Home of Middle-Earth', New Zealand - and destinations within it - have become the iconic landscapes of the trilogy. However, as with many other film tourism destinations, the screen locations are a mix of real places, film sets and digital enhancements; the tourists will not necessary be able to experience the landscapes of the films. This paper presents empirical research undertaken with three tourism operators offering LOTR-themed products: surveys were conducted with tour participants to explore their motivations, expectations and experiences of the cultural landscapes of LOTR films. The findings suggest that the more perfect the representation of hyper-reality in the tours, the higher the satisfaction and the more enhanced the tourist experience. In addition, some film tourists desire to step into the former backdrop of the film to be part of the film when re-enacting film scenes. By better understanding how tourists experience these cultural landscapes, tourism operators and destination marketers can provide the experience film tourists are seeking and thus expand the beneficial effects of film tourism on destinations.
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Keywords: Film tourism; Lord of the Rings (LOTR); New Zealand; iconic landscape; tourists' experience

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, UK 2: Institute of Geography, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand 3: Victoria Management School, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

Publication date: 2007-02-01

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