100% New Zealand campaign looking good ... Wanna buy a Greek island?
Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) is making a significant international push for new international visitors.
They're about to launch their newest "100% Pure New Zealand campaign," invoking the magic of Middle-earth just as a lot of folks (me included) look forward to the coming release of The Hobbit.
According to the press release, the campaign targets all potential travellers to New Zealand portraying the country’s stunning scenery and unique activities and experiences, coupled with Middle-earth-themed narration.
Chief Executive Kevin Bowler says the campaign aims to leverage off interest generated in New Zealand by its starring role as Middle-earth in the Peter Jackson-directed trilogies based on The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit.
“Millions of people have seen The Lord of the Rings trilogy and we expect millions more to watch The Hobbit trilogy, a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures(MGM).
“Our objective is to show people that while New Zealand stars as the fantasy world of Middle-earth, what people see in the cinema is actually a real place just waiting to be explored.
I didn't get to a lot of the places used to make The Lord of the Rings when I was in New Zealand a couple years ago, but I did manage to see quite a lot: the cosmopolitan and pretty city of Auckland, the marvellous, South Pacific-like Bay of Islands region in the north, laid-back Waiheke Island near Auckland, the fabulous wineries near Hastings and in central Otago, the art deco buildings of Napier, the rugged mountains and lakes near Queenstown and more.
I absolutely loved the place. It was quiet and laid back but fun and irreverent at the same time, with awesome food and wine and spectacular scenery at every turn. I felt like I was in my native California but back in the 1950's or something, before freeways and smog and all that urban nonsense.
Yeah, it's not cheap to get there. But right now the New Zealand dollar is trading at 80 cents Canadian. So everything you buy in New Zealand dollars is basically 20 per cent off.
I checked Expedia this morning and found the lovely Langham hotel in Auckland - nice rooms and a cool bar - had rooms for a weekend in October at $144 and up. The Sofitel down by the harbour had rooms for less than $200.
I'VE ALWAYS FANCIED SANTORINI, MYSELF ...
I don't think they'll actually put anything on the auction block, but it's interesting to hear Greek authorities talk about using some of their islands as ways to reduce the country's crushing debt.
The headlines in the paper today made it sound like entire islands could be sold off to the highest bidder as a way to make money. I've always wanted to visit Santorini, but I suspect it's a bit beyond my budget.
Actually, if truth be told I've only had a chance to visit two islands in Greece. I did a trip in, oh, 1989 or so to Paros and absolutely loved it. It's one of the quieter islands in the Cyclades, with those famous white buildings and deep blue painted roofs and doors and bright pink bougainvillea splashed all around. There are great beaches, many with naked women as I recall, and terrific, harbourside cafes where you can sit for hours under the bright Mediterannean sun.
The only other one I've been to is Hydra, and that was just for a few hours the day after the Athens Olympics ended in 2004. It was a lot of fun, with some nice, pebbly beaches and fun cafes and donkeys ferrying goods to and fro. I had some fabulous Greek yogurt with my late, great buddy Randy Starkman and with current Star columnist Dave Feschuk, and then dined on the freshest calamari steak I've ever had.