Tourism Australia’s decision to bring the Oprah Winfrey Show to Australia last year is being brought into question. The public body spent AU$5 million million (US$5.3 million) of taxpayers’ money on the project which has allegedly generated AU$360 million in tourism revenues. However arrival figures for the year to date suggest otherwise.
In the first five months of 2011, US arrivals to Australia fell 0.8%. Arrivals from Britain and Canada, where the programme also airs, fell even more dramatically. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canadian arrivals from January to May 2011 fell by 5.1% year on year, while British arrivals dropped by 4.6%.
Andrew McEvoy, Tourism Australia Chief, told The Sunday Age that the ‘Oprah effect’ had not yet kicked in and is being stalled by an ailing US economy. However McEvoy is upbeat and optimistic the investment will pay off. “The ‘Oprah effect’ was never going to be an instant phenomenon, and we believe the full impact will be seen over many years to come.”
Elsewhere in the industry, people are voicing concerns the whole idea was a mistake. Tony Charters, convener of the Tourism and Events Excellence Conference, and many other commentators have said the money would have been better spent on attracting visitors from China.