Hobbit-land draws S'pore holidaymakers

The movie set of The Hobbit (far left) in New Zealand is a hot holiday destination among travellers from Singapore, says Dynasty Travel. It adds that Finland is also popular, and visitors can stay in a glass igloo (left) and, if they are lucky, catch
The movie set of The Hobbit (above) in New Zealand is a hot holiday destination among travellers from Singapore, says Dynasty Travel. It adds that Finland is also popular, and visitors can stay in a glass igloo and, if they are lucky, catch the Northern Lights. PHOTOS: DYNASTY TRAVEL
The movie set of The Hobbit (far left) in New Zealand is a hot holiday destination among travellers from Singapore, says Dynasty Travel. It adds that Finland is also popular, and visitors can stay in a glass igloo (left) and, if they are lucky, catch
The movie set of The Hobbit in New Zealand is a hot holiday destination among travellers from Singapore, says Dynasty Travel. It adds that Finland is also popular, and visitors can stay in a glass igloo (above) and, if they are lucky, catch the Northern Lights.

Travel agencies note New Zealand's allure as destination for year-end school holidays

The year-end school holidays are around the corner and among the top destinations on travellers' lists is a country known for its spectacular scenery as well as food and wine.

New Zealand has emerged as a hot destination among Singapore travellers for the year-end period, say Dynasty Travel and CTC Travel.

A record 47,520 people from Singapore travelled there between September last year and this August - 43 per cent more against the same period between 2010 and 2011.

The number of visitors from Singapore has been rising since 2011, figures from Tourism New Zealand show. Mr Steven Dixon, its regional manager for South and South-east Asia, attributed the surge to greater accessibility, thanks to a Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand alliance launched in January that increased capacity by 30 per cent.

A long-running marketing campaign and the popularity of The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings film series - some of the scenes were filmed on North Island - also helped to raise the country's profile. A survey last year found that one in five tourists visited New Zealand because of the movies.

Singapore holidaymakers stay an average of two weeks, one in two is a repeat visitor, and most tend to self-drive and explore areas outside the main hubs of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, Mr Dixon said.

For example, some drive out of Christchurch to explore the east coast of South Island, to whale watch, swim with dolphins, sky dive or go horseback riding.

Travel agencies say other popular destinations include Spain, Italy and Finland; Japan's Hokkaido and Okinawa; Australia's Gold Coast and Tasmania; and Beijing, China.

Ms Evon Ler, president of Insight Vacations (Asia), said: "Central Europe, especially Vienna, Budapest and Prague, and Spain as well are becoming more popular compared with London and Paris. This could be due to travellers becoming more well travelled and wanting to explore something out of the norm."

Sales manager Lee Yee Wen, 28, and her husband are going to Finland on a 10-day tour for their honeymoon in December. She hopes to see the Northern Lights, visit the Santa Claus Village and take husky sled rides.

She said: "We chose Finland because lately there seems to be a lot of media coverage on it. It also won't be convenient for us to visit once we have kids."

But regional destinations remain popular with do-it-yourself and free-and-easy travellers.

Travel agencies note that regional cruises are among the top five choices for year-end travellers.

Travel search engine Skyscanner says Taipei in Taiwan, Seoul in Korea, Bali in Indonesia, Manila in the Philippines and Hong Kong are the most searched destinations.

And hotel booking platform Hotels.com Singapore says Hong Kong tops its list, followed by Bangkok in Thailand, Tokyo in Japan, Singapore and Taipei.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2015, with the headline 'Hobbit-land draws S'pore holidaymakers'. Print Edition | Subscribe