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Sheep, Xena "No Drawcard"

The Dominion Newspaper
New Zealand

6 April 2000

Many thanks to Jonathan for the transcript


SAM NEILL is in; Xena is out. and so are sheep. The Warrior Princess and our  woolly icons have had their time when it comes to marketing NZ as a tourist destination for the wealthy American market. But actor Sam Neill is a suitable image, according to research done for Tourism NZ. The report says sheep should be avoided in tourism imagery for Americans because they "reinforce the negative image of NZ as traditional, pastoral and somewhat dull".

It suggests highlighting personalities. "Sam Neill appears to offer the most potential as someone whose personality and values could be used to reinforce NZ's positioning". However, despite Neill's starring roles in films such as The Piano and The Hunt for Red October, work is needed on his profile and public awareness that he is a Kiwi, the report says.

Lucy's Lawless's persona as Xena is relatively well known, but "is problematic owing to negative character associations which are very unappealing to older (40 plus) travellers". Tourism NZ chief executive George Hickton said he accepted the findings. "Promoting NZ as a place full of sheep is not a way to get people excited about coming here". "Xena had image problems because of her young audience", he said. American tourists tended to be older.