The Hobbit trilogy is likely to provide the single largest boost to New Zealand tourism in the next decade, says the Tourism Industry Association's Martin Snedden.
Snedden told TV ONE's Breakfast this morning that while the Lord of the Rings films brought in more than $33 million of international tourism, he expects The Hobbit films to attract even greater interest in what the nation has to offer.
"I think it is likely to be significantly more than that," Snedden said.
"I think the industry, and the Government and all involved have a much better idea of how to attach New Zealand to the film and how to promote it now.
"I think what happened with the Lord of the Rings, was that we were just learning how to leverage from those types of things."
Have you seen stars of The Hobbit in New Zealand? Send your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org
Snedden added that The Hobbit films would possibly be worth more to the New Zealand economy than events like the Rugby World Cup.
"Over time there will be a tourism benefit, unlike say the Rugby World Cup, where it all exploded and happened within a 45 day period. The good thing about the Hobbit is that it's staged over quite a long period of time.
"So we will see a steady benefit happening not only over the next few months, but actually over years," he said.
Snedden also told Breakfast that the production of the films in New Zealand is working to create an "awareness" of tourism in places which are "struggling".
"It creates an awareness in some markets, which are struggling a little bit at the moment. So places like the UK and Europe, and the US, it gives New Zealand a presence there....and it will be a boost at a time we really need it," he said.
A good debate
Snedden also responded to environmentalist Dr Mike Joy's criticism of the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign
Last week, Joy slammed the campaign in an article about New Zealand's water quality in the New York Times.
Climate Change Minister Tim Groser also climbed into the debate, saying that the slogan is being "used as a stick to beat New Zealand by environmental activists".
This morning, Snedden said that people need to remember that the campaign is a "marketing brand".
"I think it a really good debate, I think Russel Norman hit the nail on the head last night when he said that no one really expects us to be 100% pure.
"It's a marketing brand, it's aspirational. The focus I don't think should be on Tourism New Zealand, I actually think it should be on us as a nation, we've got to live up to this."
However, talking to Breakfast this morning, Joy said the "facts are undeniable".
"From what Mr Groser says, I can't figure out whether he wants me to lie about the facts, or is it that he has no idea of the state of the environment in New Zealand.
"We have more threatened species in this country than any other country in the world. Around 68% of our fresh water fish species are threatened, that's a really strong sign our fresh waters are in big trouble," said Joy. "The facts are undeniable; we are not clean and green in our low land areas."
However, Joy also said that he did not have an issue with the campaign itself.
"I have no problem with 100% pure. I don't expect there to be a 100% pure. We are primary producers... all I ask is that we stop declining, we've got shocking levels of pollution already...
"I just want to stop it from getting worse and I don't think that politicians, who are talking around this, or the people who have problems with what I'm saying have any idea of how bad things are."
* ONE News and onenews.co.nz will have live coverage of the Hobbit premiere on Wednesday, November 28.