The scene is set: a giant countdown clock, a 1,500-foot red carpet and assurances from the New Zealand government’s tourism arm that the South Pacific nation will once again become the real Middle Earth.
As the Wellington premiere of “The Hobbit” approaches, New Zealand’s picturesque landscapes are set to take center stage once again. Ten years ago, the breathtaking vistas featured in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy were at the heart of a tourism campaign that helped jump-start a multibillion-dollar international travel industry and a worldwide image of the country’s clean, green living. It was what Tourism New Zealand, the country’s tourism agency, called “100% pure” New Zealand.
But while the spectacular and seemingly untarnished natural backdrops, stunning waterscapes and snow-tipped mountains might look world-class on film, critics say the realm New Zealand’s marketers have presented is as fantastical as dragons and wizards. (Read more)