Tourism overtakes dairy as New Zealand's top overseas earner

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – In New Zealand there are twice as many cows as people, but it’s the hobbits that are really making hay.

According to figures released Wednesday, tourism has overtaken dairy as the nation’s top earner of overseas dollars. And tourism officials say the success of the fantasy movie trilogy “The Hobbit” has helped.

The change comes as the dairy industry struggles to recover from a slump in prices.

Statistics New Zealand said spending by international tourists was up by 20 per cent in the year ending March when compared with the previous year. That follows a 17 per cent rise the year before.

Income from dairy products has fallen by 22 per cent over the past two years, the agency’s figures show.

New Zealand is home to 4.7 million people and 10 million cows.