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Published on : Wednesday, August 23, 2017
In the early 2000s, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films were really a revelation for New Zealand tourism. Fans of the trilogy flocked to the shores from around the world to see the dramatic scenery of Middle Earth. Guidebooks were produced, tours were organized and people collected souvenirs.
On the other side of the world, German tourism student Stefan Roesch was taking notice of this. After he saw a news headline about the scores of Hobbit admirers descending on New Zealand’s scenic spots, Roesch decided to come here to research the phenomenon of film location tourism.
Roesch completed his PhD in Tourism at the University of Otago in 2007. He accompanied groups of film tourists to Lord of the Rings locations in New Zealand, spots from the Sound of Music in Austria, and the deserts of Tunisia which stood in for the planet Tatooine in Star Wars. Using photographs, video and interviews, Roesch documented the fans’ reaction to seeing the locations in person. He asked them about their motivations to travel to these far flung places. He published a book in 2010 titled, ‘The Experiences of Film Location Tourists.’
Roesch observed that there was a gap in the tourism industry’s knowledge when it came to film tourism, and he wanted to fill that gap. New Zealand has led the way in capitalizing on its silver screen fame, but other countries haven’t been so savvy.
Roesch said, “Tourism New Zealand, Air New Zealand – they have been at the forefront of developing that area. There are a few other countries that have done a lot around film tourism, especially the UK, but there are still many regions in the world where the potential is there but they don’t do anything.” His latest consulting project was in the Middle Eastern nation of Jordan, for the Jordan Tourism Board and Jordan’s Royal Film Commission.
In 2015 he spent time in Northern Ireland helping promote the country’s Game of Thrones links. Although film locations might draw tourists to a country or region, Roesch says film tourists are often interactive and gallant travellers.