Gollum is a precious resource.

By Jess McHugh
October 26, 2016
Hobbit-fueled tourism New Zealand's top foreign-cash source
Credit: Pravit Kimtong/Getty Images

Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy worlds have long flocked to New Zealand to explore the lands that inspired Peter Jackson's “Lord of the Rings” film adaptations.

With its verdant landscape and a plethora of tours that cater to Tolkien fans, it's easy for hobbit-lovers to explore the terrain of this cherished book and film classic.

The appeal is so strong that the tourism industry has overtaken dairy farming in terms of the nation’s foreign revenue, according to statistics reported by the Associated Press on Wednesday. New Zealand saw a record 3.4 million visitors arrive in the year that ended in September, and 16 percent of tourists cited the movie trilogy as a motivation for the visit.

Foreign tourists are also spending more money in New Zealand than in previous years, according to Statistics New Zealand, cited in the same AP report. Foreign spending saw a spike by 20 percent, giving this fantasy attraction real-world repercussions for the nation's economy.

Hobbit-fueled tourism New Zealand's top foreign-cash source
Credit: Anna Gorin/Getty Images

Tolkien-themed attractions include the hobbit holes in Matamata, the location where Jackson filmed Bilbo and Frodo’s home of the Shire.

For $3,450, one mountain biking group offers a 12-day excursion through New Zealand called “Storm the South Island” that covers some of the terrain featured in “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” worlds.

As one New Zealand tourist website described it, the South Islands are “the nearest thing on earth to Tolkien’s imaginary world.”