WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand has relied on hobbits, bungy jumping and rugby to entice tourists in the past.
Now Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may have found the perfect spokesman to embrace all of the above and more: American comedian Stephen Colbert.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Ardern talked about the boost to the country’s vital tourism industry that Colbert appears to have singlehandedly orchestrated.
Last month, Colbert recounted his adventures in New Zealand during a weeklong humorous segment on CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
The first segment shows Ardern picking up Colbert from the airport in her car and hosting him for a backyard barbecue, with singer Lorde in attendance.
“It was an amazing opportunity to do something for New Zealand,” Ardern said. “He had a genuine love of New Zealand though. Like, very genuine. So, it actually made it really easy.”
In other segments, Colbert attempts to play rugby and bungy jump, and makes a movie with Peter Jackson, who directed “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies.
Tourism generates more foreign income for New Zealand than any other industry.
Ardern said tourism officials have reported a spike in Americans investigating holidays in New Zealand since the segments ran.
“I think it probably exceeded everyone’s expectations, the amount of coverage the country got from it,” she said. “So I think that’s no bad thing.”
Ardern said Colbert’s segments went beyond the typical depictions of New Zealand’s beautiful scenery and adventure sports.
“It showcased our people really well, and just who we are,” she said.