New Zealand Tourism Draws Travellers and Migrants

Like Lord of the Rings?

Mention the influence of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy on New Zealand tourism and you might bring to mind the TV series Flight of the Concords, and the advert on band manager Murray Hewitt’s wall: A picture of New Zealand with the words “Like Lord of the Rings?” printed underneath.

new zealand north island
License: Creative Commons image source

There’s no denying the film trilogy’s impact on New Zealand’s economy, as shown by the determination to retain the production when it came time to make The Hobbit. Even Prime Minister John Key got involved in the disputes with Warner Brothers Studios when it became clear there was a serious risk of production occurring elsewhere.

People arrive every year, eager to witness the mountains and green hills of the Shire and even the volcanic wastelands of Mordor. Most countries advertise their tourism industries with pictures of happy families running along beaches in the sun, so it was refreshing to have warriors hacking the heads off orcs as one of the primary attractions.

Though the films get a lot of credit, to give them all the credit would be unfair on the many attractions New Zealand has to offer. According to, visitors to the country have in fact doubled every decade since 1970, showing that tourism has long been a key contributor to the New Zealand economy.

Tourism is New Zealand’s Biggest Export

In 2010, tourism officially overtook dairy as New Zealand’s biggest export. Aside from famous film sets, attractions that have drawn tourists to New Zealand for decades include:

  • The diversity of the landscape: For a relatively small landmass, New Zealand boasts an incredible variety of geographic terrain, from glaciers to rainforests and sand dunes.
  • Maori culture.
  • Volcanoes.

In 2011, tourism contributed $23 billion to the New Zealand economy, and at least one in ten members of the workforce is involved in the tourism industry.

The Link between Tourism and Migration

A McCann study conducted in 2010 confirmed a strong causal link between migration and tourism, with statistics showing that an increase in migrants contributed to an increase in tourism. This is largely due to visits from friends and relatives. This brings rising demand for hospitality skills which in turn produces further migration to meet this demand.

And, with tourism only likely to continue growing (visitor numbers are expected to reach three million a year by 2015, and by 2016 will have grown 27% from 2011 numbers), the demand for skills will keep rising. Hospitality skills are included on the list of essential skills in immediate demand, making it easier for people with interests in that area to pursue residency in New Zealand (

The hospitality industry is quite broad in the number of skills it includes:

  • Restaurant positions.
  • Bartenders.
  • Instructors for recreational activities such as skydiving and snowboarding.
  • Hotel positions.
  • Tour guides.

In many cases, the things that attract tourists to New Zealand will be the same things that attract migrants, but whether it’s a traveling worker or someone seeking residency in New Zealand, the thriving tourism industry presents a great source of opportunity.

Written by Matthew Flax on behalf of Skilled Migrant Jobs, a specialist job site that advertises a range of jobs for migrants to New Zealand.