Twelve months on Oprah still lingers

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - TOURISM TALK -

TWELVE months ago US talk­show queen Oprah Win­frey brought 200 of her “best friends” to Aus­tralia for a grand fi­nale of un­prece­dented pro­por­tions - in­clud­ing a trip to the Dain­tree for a lucky few - but did it work for our tourism in­dus­try?

While the move gen­er­ated un­told ex­po­sure around the world, the strong Aus­tralian dol­lar and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in­clud­ing cy­clones and floods in Queens­land have been big de­ter­rents for over­seas vis­i­tors this year.

When you take this into ac­count, the fig­ures for tourism may have been much worse if the world’s most pow­er­ful wo­man had never set foot on Aussie soil.

Dur­ing the year ended Septem­ber 30 - the most re­cent fig­ures avail­able - there were around 5.4 mil­lion vis­i­tors to Aus­tralia aged 15 years and over, a 1 per cent in­crease on the same time the pre­vi­ous year.

The per­cent­age of vis­i­tors from the United States, how­ever, has fallen about 4 per cent.

But re­search con­ducted by TNS Mar­ket Re­search showed out of all US vis­i­tors who came to Aus­tralia in the six months to Novem­ber, 59 per cent agreed the Oprah show made them visit places out­side the main cities they had not pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered.

Around 64 per cent found them­selves pre­pared to spend more time dur­ing their trip than they orig­i­nally thought they would.

Colin Hughes, who is man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of one of Aus­tralia’s largest in­bound op­er­a­tors, ATS Pa­cific, said the United States has faced its own chal­lenges over the past year.

“Every­thing that’s hap­pened in the US has not re­ally al­lowed the Oprah im­pact to have the ef­fect it will have be­cause the poor bug­gers are still try­ing to claw their way back from the precipice,” he said.

While Mr Hughes said many peo­ple thought thou­sands of Amer­i­cans would be flock­ing to our shores within days of Oprah set­ting foot on Aussie soil, the re­al­ity is far dif­fer­ent.

Amer­i­cans are plan­ners, they still con­sider Aus­tralia to be very far away and most only get one or two weeks an­nual leave a year.

He be­lieves the re­sults will fil­ter through over three to four years.

“It’s prob­a­bly a bit early to say Oprah worked or didn’t work,” he said.

"It will be at least 12 months be­fore we see an im­pact.

"They’re not go­ing to make up their minds in­stantly... they’re kind of keep­ing their money in their pock­ets at the mo­ment be­cause of the econ­omy.

Mr Hughes said Amer­i­cans may also have been put off trav­el­ling to Aus­tralia af­ter see­ing footage of floods in iso­lated parts of Queens­land, in­cor­rectly be­liev­ing the whole coun­try was dam­aged.

Dur­ing her trip in De­cem­ber, Oprah vis­ited the Great Bar­rier Reef, took a flight over the Aus­tralian Out­back, vis­ited Fed­er­a­tion Square in Mel­bourne and walked on the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge and a hand­ful of her au­di­ence mem­bers vis­ited the Dain­tree, which was heav­ily pro­moted on the talk­show queen’s web­site. The early signs were good. A ma­jor travel com­pany work­ing with Tourism Aus­tralia said in­quiries had been up 75 per cent on last year be­cause of the ex­tra pub­lic­ity be­fore the first of Oprah’s four shows fea­tur­ing Aus­tralia even aired.

So­cial net­work­ing web­sites were also abuzz with view­ers quickly declar­ing their plans to visit Aus­tralia.

Tourism Aus­tralia em­barked on a ma­jor mar­ket­ing blitz in the US and other mar­ket­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in other key mar­kets where Oprah’s show is broad­cast, in­clud­ing the UK, New Zealand and Canada.

Tourism Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor An­drew Mcevoy said while much of the fo­cus is on the US, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber the show aired in 144 other coun­tries.

“Four episodes showed in In­dia in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber,’” he said.

Mr Mcevoy said the numbers for Amer­i­cans vis­it­ing other coun­tries were down a lot more than they were when it came to vis­it­ing Aus­tralia.

“You could ar­gue that Aus­tralia has held its own in one of the most dif­fi­cult out­bound mar­kets in the world,” he said.

In the mean­time, Oprah’s legacy con­tin­ues.

Tourism Aus­tralia’s Face­book fan page was dra­mat­i­cally boosted fol­low­ing her visit.

It is al­ready the largest desti­na­tion Face­book fan page on the planet and will soon pass two mil­lion fans.

In the fu­ture, Tourism Aus­tralia is plan­ning more mar­ket­ing cam­paigns around the In­dian cricket tour, Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions rugby and The Ashes.

Since Oprah, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has brought out other big names from emerg­ing mar­kets who are not as well­known in Aus­tralia as Oprah and don’t gen­er­ate as much pub­lic­ity.

How much can a koala bear: Oprah in Aus­tralia last year

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