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Hobbits and elves drawing tourists to New Zealand

WELLINGTON: Hobbits, elves and dragons appear to be luring tourists to New Zealandas fans await their first glimpse of the second movie in 'The Hobbit' trilogy. 

Figures released this month by government agency Tourism New Zealand show that international vacations to New Zealand rose 10 percent from January through April when compared to the same period last year. The agency said a survey indicated that 8.5 percent of visitors cited 'The Hobbit' as one reason for coming and that 13 percent took part in some kind of hobbit-themed tourism like visiting a film set. 

Warner Bros. announced on June 10 that it will release the first teaser-trailer of 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' at 1 p.m. EDT on June 11. The second film will premiere December 13 in Los Angeles. 

The trilogy is directed by New Zealand filmmaker 
Peter Jackson and shot in his home country. The opener ``The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,'' was released December 2012. It received mixed reviews but proved extraordinarily popular with audiences, earning a little over $1 billion at the box office. 

In an email, Jackson's spokesman Matt Dravitzki said fans can expect ``a surprise or two'' in this week's trailer, ``but I can't say anything more than that!'' 

A little over 500,000 tourists visited New Zealand for vacations in the first four months of the year. About the same number again visited for other reasons, such as for work or to visit relatives. 

Tourism New Zealand has been running a ``100% Middle-earth'' marketing campaign that seeks leverage from the movies. 

'The Hobbit' is based on J.R.R. Tolkien's novel of the same name and traces the adventures of hobbit Bilbo Baggins as he attempts to help a group of dwarves regain their wealth and stature from the dragon Smaug. 'The Hobbit' is the prequel to Tolkien's ``The Lord of the Rings.''