New Zealand volcano ‘good for tourists’


The volcanic activity on New Zealand’s North Island may ultimately do more to lure tourists than deter them, local tourist officials have claimed. Mount Tongariro, which stands alongside the peak that featured as Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings, erupted for five minutes on November 21, sending a plume of ash and gas more than a mile into the air. Several flights were cancelled as a result. Experts say there is a “significant possibility” the volcano will erupt again, but the news is not discouraging locals, the New Zealand Times reports. Mike Smith of Visit Ruapehu, the official tourism organisation for the area, said: “For now we’re in the spotlight, and sometimes that can turn out to be a positive”. “If it’s short term, which we all hope it is, then these things have a funny way of working out in a positive way. “If it’s longer term, and particularly over a number of weeks, then it’s more challenging.” Since the eruption, flights have resumed and a travel advisory for the area has been lifted – although the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the best known local trek, is closed until the weekend while the risk of further volcanic activity is assessed. Another local mayor was also optimistic about the eruptions, saying that it was “great …to be promoted on the world stage.” Mount Tongariro is one of three active volcanoes in Tongariro National Park, which were used as a backdrop for the Peter Jackson-directed trilogy. It previously erupted in August, for the first time in 115 years. It would not be the first time a natural disaster has boosted visitor numbers. The eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland in 2010 – which caused widespread disruption to flights – ultimately attracted many visitors hoping for a glimpse of the country’s volatile natural powers. Research carried out by First Choice suggested that incoming travellers to Iceland were boosted by 12 per cent later that year, despite an initial dip. On an intriguing infographic, it argued that natural disasters can have “interesting and counter-intuitive” effects on tourism.