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Oprah effect pays off for Australian tourism

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Tourism Australia’s $1.5 million gamble to bring Oprah to Australia is starting to pay off, with initial data recording an increase in American travel bookings. Speaking at the Australian Tourism Exchange this week, Tourism Australia’s managing director Andrew McEvoy said it was a little early to start popping champagne corks, but there are suggestions the ‘Oprah effect’ is working. Online travel agency Orbitz reported a rise in flight and hotel bookings from Americans of nearly 10 percent and 13.6 percent respectively. Flight Centre/Liberty Travel has seen a 108 percent increase in flight bookings compared with the same period in 2010. US travel group Signature Travel recorded a 52 percent increase in Australian bookings. Oprah Winfrey visited Australia to film four episodes of her top-rating show in December 2010. Consumer research recently conducted in America revealed that 61 percent of respondents aware of Oprah’s Australian shows had already investigated holidays in Australia. "About 74 percent of those who were aware of the shows agreed that Australia is worth travelling to," McEvoy said. "Since its announcement in September 2010, Oprah’s visit to Australia has generated more than 86,000 media articles across the world, with an estimated equivalent advertising value of $368 million," he said. McEvoy told Dynamic Export in February that he didn’t expect Oprah to be the silver bullet for Australian tourism, but he hoped to see the ‘Oprah effect’. "Within 30 minutes of the first show screening in the US, one agent from Texas specialising in Australia reported his first group booking. Another reported a 75 percent uplift in business since the Winfrey visit to Australia was first announced." Oprah’s four Australian shows will be re-aired from March 24, in conjunction with the next stage of Tourism Australia’s big American marketing push. Securing Oprah’s visit was a coup for Tourism Australia, one the organisation hopes will help boost US tourism to Australia by 840,000 visitors. Tourism Australia estimates US travellers could add $5.5 billion to the Australian economy by 2020.

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