THERE was a lot of talk at the recent Australian Tourism Exchange event in Perth about the potential for Baz Luhrmann’s new film, Australia, to promote the country, and in particular Western Australia, as an international tourism destination. With parts of the movie being filmed in the state’s Kimberley region, as well as the Northern Territory, Queensland, and New South Wales, both Tourism Australia and Tourism Western Australia have jumped on the film’s tourism opportunities by mounting international campaigns on the back of its November release. The state government initially committed $500,000 to make sure the film was partially shot in WA, which its says has already contributed $4 million to the state’s economy via the hosting of 400 cast and crew during August 2007. The importance of film tourism can’t be underestimated. If it’s done right, the campaign could give the local industry a real boost, similar to what Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand tourism. The immense popularity of that movie has led New Zealand tourism companies to reap the benefits of a variety of Lord of the Rings tours, giving fans an opportunity to “follow the rings” on their own personal journey through “middle earth”. Tourism New Zealand developed promotional material to coincide with the film’s international release, as well as additional complementary marketing efforts and the use of imagery used in the film. It also made sure that New Zealand was identified as the film’s location at every opportunity. Market research undertaken by NZ firm NFO after the release of the first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy found that 65 per cent of potential visitors said they were more likely to visit New Zealand as a result of the films and associated media coverage. The release of Australia really couldn’t have come at a better time, particularly with international tourism numbers to Australia stagnating (even though WA has been bucking the national trend). The local tourism industry needs to make sure it capitalises on this opportunity, making sure the words Western Australia, Kununurra and the Kimberley appear as frequently as possible. It also needs to make sure we deliver on tourists’ expectations with a high quality, authentic product.

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