Fantasy films put Britain, New Zealand in focus

By
|

reat Britain and New Zealand, half a world apart, have a lot of things in common -- language, heritage and spectacular scenery, to name a few. Now they share another bond: They're hot travel destinations thanks to blockbuster movies based on works by British writers J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Sir Ian McKellen, as the wizard Gandalf, strolls through New Zealand's Tongariro National Park (starred on the inset map), where parts of the film 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' were filmed. As theater receipts pile up for "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" -- each the first installment of a series -- travel agents have a unique chance to sell Britain, where the Potter film was shot, and New Zealand, where The Lord of the Rings was filmed.

Indeed, up to 30% of telephone inquiries received by British Tourist Authority offices in New York regard Harry Potter, said spokesman Robin Prestage.

Just after the film's November release, it accounted for half of all calls, he said, adding, "This film will certainly help us enormously. And when the next movie comes out, interest will grow."

To help steer Potter fans and travel agents to film spots, the BTA has published a map, called "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone -- Discovering the Magic of Britain," to reflect both the film's U.K. title and its broader scope of all things magical in Britain.

Click here for a larger map image.While it features eight film locations, such as King's Cross Station in London and the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the map also details 32 other unusual places or things, such as the steam-powered Ffestiniog Railway in Wales and Loch Ness, home of Scotland's elusive "Nessie."

Down Under, meanwhile, New Zealand is promoting itself as the "home of Middle Earth," with the country's www.purenz.com Web site, featuring a 15-minute animated tour narrated by television star Lucy Lawless of "Xena" fame.

"We can provide agents with lists of whole areas that are immediately recognizable from 'Lord of the Rings,' such as Matamata, where Hobbiton was built on a farm, and volcanic Tongariro Crossing, which served as the land of Mordor," said Gregg Anderson, regional manager, U.S. and Canada, for Tourism New Zealand in Santa Monica, Calif.

He cautioned, however, that many film sets have been dismantled, are on private land or are being kept secret until the release of the sequels. Tourism New Zealand does provide related or alternate activities at or near each film site.

HARRY POTTERImage Tours
Phone: (800) 968-9161
Fax: (616) 957-0103
Web: www.imagetours.comVacationkids.com (for Virgin Atlantic Vacations)
Phone: (610) 681-7360
E-mail: [email protected]
Web: www.vacationkids.comTHE LORD OF THE RINGSNewmans South Pacific Vacations
Phone: (800) 416-0667
Fax: (310) 215-9705
E-mail: [email protected]
Web: www.newmansvacations.com/middleearthThe New Zealand Walking Co.
Phone/Fax: (011) 64-9 580-0087
E-mail: [email protected]
Web: www.nzwalkingcompany.com              

Given the interest in the two films, operators have been relatively slow to devise tours. Part of the reason is strict licensing by Time Warner, which owns rights to both movies, noted Prestage.

Tourism New Zealand, however, worked with Time Warner and Newmans South Pacific Vacations in Los Angeles to craft FIT packages inclusive of roundtrip air, an eight-day car rental and a hotel pass, starting at $1,149 per person and departing through Dec. 6.

"We put a bare-bones package together, and travelers can build on that," explained Wayne Stenning, vice president, who added that Newmans can suggest self-drive itineraries such as the Elvish Expedition, the Wizard's Way and the Hobbit's Quest. Commission starts at 10%.

Also offering a Lord of the Rings-oriented -- but unofficial -- product is the New Zealand Walking Co., which pays 10% commission on hikes to areas featured in the film. The group also arranges some accommodations and meals.

By contrast, there is no authorized Harry Potter tour to Britain, according to the BTA.

However, Image Tours of Grand Rapids, Mich., has put together an eight-night Enchanted England Tour based on the BTA map. The tour, departing March 23 and 30; June 23, and July 21, is priced from $1,780 per person with air, hotel and breakfast. Commission ranges from 10% to 17%, said Monique Kasmauskis, president.

Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic Vacations has codeveloped a Harry's Magical London Tour with Vacationkids.com.

The first departure, priced at $1,134 per adult and $849 for children under 11, leaves Feb. 14 for six nights in London and includes air fare; hotel; breakfast; tours of Oxford, London and Gloucester, and a three-day travel card.

Capacity is limited to 100 participants booked by Jan. 12. Although the first trip is not commissionable, a July departure might be, said Vacationkids.com founder Sally Black.

Harry Potter, right, and his friend, Ron Weasley, in a scene from the hit movie. Trafalgar Tours, New York, is offering an eight-night Magical Medieval Tour of Potter sites, priced at $995 per adult and $345 for kids ages 12 and under. Britain and New Zealand specialists expressed interest in the films as a novel way to drive sales.

"I'm hoping to get calls about Harry Potter," said Ann Litt, president of Undiscovered Britain, Philadelphia, which is devising related itineraries with a London partner.

For its part, New Zealand specialist Austravel, of San Francisco, has stockpiled Lord of the Rings information as interest in the destination grows.

"We've noted a general increase over the last month," said Emma Condon, supervisor. "Whether it's related to 'The Lord of the Rings,' I can't say, but we are looking at putting together some packages."

For more information, contact the BTA at (866) 4-HEDWIG or Tourism New Zealand at (800) 416-0667.

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI