Kiwi tourism boom expected as cameras start rolling on 'The Hobbit'

New Zealand is gearing up for a renewed bout of Tolkien tourism with the announcement that filming of
The Hobbit will begin in the country next month.

The film's director, Peter Jackson, confirmed February 7 that the cameras will start rolling on the big-budget movie March 21, meaning a small section of New Zealand countryside will again be transformed into Middle Earth.

Filming will take place at Stone Street Studios in Wellington, New Zealand's capital city, and in the village of Hobbiton, a town created for the Lord of the Rings movies near Matamata on New Zealand's North Islands.

The village, which is part of a larger privately owned farm and has offered popular tours for tourists since 2002, will be closed to visitors for the duration of filming, although during the previous planned closure the Shires Rest Cafe was scheduled to remain open.

Visitors will also be able to visit other areas of the country immortalized in the movies, including Tongariro National Park in the North Island's central plateau (which became Emyn Muil and Mordor), Mount Sunday and Mount Potts in the Rangitata Valley (Edoras, the capital of Rohan) and Mount Ruapehu (Mount Doom).

New Zealand, which pulled out all the stops to ensure that Jackson would return to film The Hobbit, saw a major jump in visitor numbers after the release of the final film of the trilogy in 2003 and although figures have now settled down, "Middle Earth" is still a powerful ambassador for the country.

Tourism is now New Zealand's biggest foreign money earner, with some $9.5 billion (€5.4 billion) spent every year.

Tourism New Zealand's Lord of the Rings Tourism Guide: http://www.newzealand.com/travel/about-nz/features/major-films/the-lord-of-the-rings/the-lord-of-the-rings_home.cfm

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