ENTOURAGES don’t come much bigger than this. When Oprah Winfrey visits Australia for the first time in December, she will travel with about 450 people – enough to book out an entire Qantas A380. Only they won’t be booking it out, they’ll be guests of the national airline, travelling free.
They won’t spend a cent while they’re here either, as Tourism Australia foots the $1.5 million bill for their trip. ”There’ll be lots of other partners getting involved to help out too,” said Andrew McEvoy, managing director of Tourism Australia, yesterday. ”It will be a massive case of all hands on deck to help show that there really is nothing like Australia.” (Which just happens to be the new Tourism Australia slogan.)
Winfrey will film at least two episodes of her program in Australia.
Mr McEvoy confirmed the proposal was first put to Winfrey nine or 10 months ago, and was accepted about two months ago.
An estimated price tag of $3 million was put on the Winfrey extravaganza yesterday, but it is likely to cost a lot more than that. Tourism NSW has contributed ”between $1 million and $2 million” and Tourism Victoria is believed to have contributed in excess of $500,000. The other states have also contributed.
It is not guaranteed that Oprah herself will visit Victoria – the itinerary will not be set until her production team visits later this month – but the state will feature in the programs. The 300 people who were in yesterday’s audience will be split into three equal groups, and sent to NSW, Victoria and Queensland to sample the best each state has to offer.
Winfrey will not receive a fee. ”We’re not paying her to come and do it. We’re simply trying to make sure it doesn’t cost them any more to film the programs here than it would to film them in America,” said Mr McEvoy.
It would be the first time Winfrey had recorded a program offshore, Mr McEvoy said. ”A lot of people have pitched this sort of thing to Oprah before, but I think the scale of what we were offering was what impressed her.”