Tolkien tourism is a phenomenon of fans of The Lord of the Rings fictional universe making media pilgrimages to sites of film- and book-related significance. It is especially notable in New Zealand, site of the movie trilogy by Peter Jackson, where it is credited as having raised the annual tourism numbers.
The Lord of the Rings film series by Peter Jackson, based on J. R. R. Tolkien's novel of the same name, were shot at locations throughout New Zealand. Many of these places have been preserved and altered to encourage the media pilgrimage tourism that makes up a significant portion of the country's economy. On some Lord of the Rings film location tours, tourists are provided time to indulge in cosplay, and dress as characters from the books or films.
New Zealand is well placed to capitalize on its scenery. Tolkien tourist attention is less geared to visiting New Zealand's national parks and more focused on scenery that was used as backdrops in Peter Jackson's films. For example, Mount Olympus is in Kahurangi National Park near Nelson in a remote corner of the South Island. Since it featured in The Fellowship of the Ring, Mount Olympus has become a spot for Tolkien tourists.
Mount Sunday, in a remote area west of the Canterbury plains (upper reaches of the Rangitata Valley near Erewhon) served as the location of Edoras. Although no traces of the filming remain, complete day tour packages to it are available from Christchurch.
Film NZ—the national film promotion board—advertises that New Zealand offers a kaleidoscope of urban and rural landscapes. Tourists are invited to find film locations around New Zealand with a free "Middle Earth map." Currently New Zealand is negotiating with Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema, the films' producers, to construct a permanent Lord of the Rings museum for some of the 40,000 props and costumes now warehoused in New Zealand.
The annual tourist influx to New Zealand grew 40%, from 1.7 million in 2000 to 2.4 million in 2006, has been attributed in large part to The Lord of the Rings phenomenon. 6% of international visitors cited the film as a reason for traveling to the country. "You can argue that Lord of the Rings was the best unpaid advertisement that New Zealand has ever had", said Bruce Lahood, United States and Canadian regional manager for Tourism New Zealand. An article published by The New York Times contradicts Lahood, stating that New Zealand subsidized the movie trilogy with $150 million.
Many experts and New Zealanders hoped for a renewed Tolkien effect because The Hobbit was also filmed in New Zealand.
Whether or not this was vitally important to New Zealand's tourism industry was a big debating point during short-lived fears that industrial disputes could make the film production occur outside of the country. The government of New Zealand also saw some criticism for increasing movie subsidies and creating laws tailored for US movie companies, solely out of fear of losing the production. Some have subsequently called the price of $25 million (in further financial subsidies and specific laws made for the producers benefit) that New Zealand had to pay to retain the movie 'extortionate' and argued that the discussion had occurred in a climate of 'hyperbole and hysteria'. An even higher price of at least $109 million has also been cited.
Tolkien tourism has existed to a lesser extent independent from the Jackson movies, in other places associated with him. Tolkien worked for much of his career in Oxford, England. The colleges where Tolkien taught, the pubs that he and the Inklings frequented, the church he attended, and his former homes in the city all attract tourist interest. The Eagle and Child pub used to capitalise on Tolkien's former patronage in its signage and interior decoration.