In times like these people can relate to hobbits. We like our home comforts and our little plot of dirt we’ve been sticking closely to of late.
As we are proving against the Delta invader, like the hobbit, we are pretty good at hiding, down here in Middle-Earth.
Ask Alexandra lad Shayne Forrest, and he would tell you he has a lot in common with hobbits.
The deputy chief executive and general manager of marketing and commercial for Hobbiton Movie Set Tours admits to having hairy feet.
‘‘I identify with any of the hobbits but most probably Sam (Samwise Gamgee).
‘‘Like hobbits I enjoy good company, the comforts of home and plenty of home›cooked meals.’’
It is a tough job swilling beer at The Green Dragon, the functioning pub in the middle of Hobbiton village admidst a working farm in Matamata but it is something he has been doing for about 10 years.
The recently appointed Central Otago Tourism advisory board member is highly regarded in the industry, receiving the New Zealand Tourism Award for Emerging Tourism Leader in 2017. He brings a broad understanding of tourism markets in different phases.
The unusual tourism and farming mix of Hobbiton requires an unusual combination of skills; theatrical (he studied acting) and business smarts (he did a degree).
Putting on a tour is like putting on a show.
‘‘With the 100-plus locations throughout New Zealand, everyone knows the Middle›Earth story.’’
He grew up in Don Place in Alexandra with a quarry over the back to play in, like a dry Hobbiton.
Mr Forrest loves getting home with his three kids, Ruby (6), George (3) and Bella (6 months).
‘‘I like small towns. I like living in Cambridge. It feels quite rural yet close to everything but I miss Central, those crisp, clean cold winter days, the skiing, the skating, that it’s all on your doorstep, and cycle trails. We don’t have that.’’
‘‘It’s a funny time to be in tourism. For some some reason, we’ve gone really well. People are exploring their own backyard. And Central Otago’s got lots of those little gems.
‘‘I reckon New Zealanders are going to be our best ambassadors for when people do start to come back. They’ll be able to point to those places.’’
At the end of 2019, when Covid-19 appeared, he had an inkling of what was coming. About 90% of business was overseas tourists.
‘‘We were going to lose those long haul flights if they closed the borders, so we had to cut the cloth to the market that we knew was going to be domestic. I think we’ve done pretty well. We (Kiwis) are a lot more resilient than what we think.’’
Lockdown went as well as it could with three kids running around and constantly running into Zoom meetings in various states of dress.
‘‘All part of the fun. We’re just working from home trying to move bookings and events.
‘‘I’m planning a few events for the Lord of the Rings 20th anniversary that is in December this year, so keeping busy.’’