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Movie magic just tourism fantasy  Sep 22, 2008

The global economic downturn and escalating fuel costs are affecting long-haul tourism from overseas, with foreign visitation numbers stagnating since the Sydney Olympics.

Meanwhile, Australians are also finding they're getting more bang for their holiday buck offshore.

Tourism Research Australia shows domestic tourism slumped significantly over the last financial year, with 500,000 more Australians choosing to holiday overseas rather than at home. So, where the bloody hell are our politicians as the industry declines?

The answer is, pinning their hopes on director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet) and his upcoming film Australia, complemented by a $40 million taxpayer-funded TV ad campaign.

That will be produced by Luhrmann's company, Bazmark.

Those politicians are either totally insane or plain stupid.

According to Tourism Australia, it is hard at work re-branding us.

Managing director Geoff Buckley claims that the film and TV ads will provide Australia with its most powerful marketing push in decades.

The audacity of hope, to borrow from Barak Obama's book title, is apt for what Baz is doing to brand Australia.

The title of his film is ambitious, if not audacious. He says the title is a metaphor, apparently ignorant of what the word means.

If he really wanted metaphor, he might have consulted the Chinese and come up with something like Hopping Roo, Creeping Wombat.

Australia, set for release in November, stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. It will premiere in LA, not Australia - that's possibly a metaphor for Cringing Colonial.

To be fair, the marketing push is geared toward the US.

As for the plot, the stars embark on what Baz calls an epic African Queen sort of journey. Except of course, it's not in Africa, it's in Australia.

Kidman plays an English woman, possibly drenched in Chanel No.5, who comes to check out her husband's cattle station in Australia's north.

With his inimitable marketing genius, Baz describes the station as being as big as Belgium, a country that only about three Americans and one grizzly bear have ever heard of.

And of course, it's nothing like Belgium, where you can get nice coffee and cake.

In Baz's Australia you do it tough, and get to see what he calls some of the world's most unforgiving landscape.

All very seductive - if you happen to be a masochist with the time and funds to travel to remote and harsh locations in search of self-improvement.

The average American might well instead consider enlisting to fight in Baghdad - at least they'd get paid.

Baz has decided not to show potential tourists any of our landmarks, preferring to focus on what he calls the "emotional transformation" that people experience when travelling in isolated areas of the outback.

It sounds like the bloke has spent a bit too much time in the sun and gone totally troppo. It's catching.

Before production of the film began, the WA Government put $500,000 towards it, claiming it would showcase the state as an international tourist destination.

I'll bet you one dead horse it won't do a thing for us, states or territories.

Apart from the fact that the landscape depicted is a world apart from Victoria and Tasmania, the plot is going to get right up the nose of the Japanese, focusing as it does on the World War II bombing of Darwin.

Are we going to lure them back by pointing at the scene of their crime?

Poor old Darwin doesn't fare too well in this sorry saga, with only a couple of scenes shot there.

Well might we ask of potential tourists, where the bloody well are you? They'll be safe at bloody home and no bloody wonder.

Movie magic just tourism fantasy
Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman in Australia /

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