CBS: New Zealand leader finds perfect spokesman: Stephen Colbert

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.

Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.