By Mandi Bierly
Updated September 15, 2010 at 11:18 PM EDT

Image Credit: Mark Segal/Getty Images; Albert L. Ortega/PR PhotosThere was some surprise when it was announced that Aussie taxpayers would foot the bill, estimated at $3 million, forOprah’sUltimate Australian Adventure.” That’s the eight-day journey Down Under on which Oprah Winfrey will take 300 of her most loyal viewers this December. They’ll see the sights, drink the wine, and shoot at least two episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show in Sydney’s Opera House (dubbed “Oprah House” for that week). But the fact is: A tourism board does spend money on advertising to bring visitors into the country, and Winfrey filming her first trip — for a show seen by an estimated 40 million viewers in America and aired in roughly 145 countries — is a decent investment. At a press conference yesterday, federal tourism minister John Brown put it into perspective when he compared what has been dubbed “Project O” by some of the tourism officials who worked on the partnership in secret for months to a past campaign: “‘Where the bloody hell are you?‘ was a $180 million absolute disaster,” he said. “You couldn’t possibly quantify the success that you’re gonna get from this.” Aussie tourism officials consider it a coup — and it was their idea. “Tourism Australia approached us about a year ago with the idea to bring The Oprah Winfrey Show to Australia,” a rep for the show tells EW. “We were honored by their gracious invitation and look forward to showcasing their beautiful country to our viewers around the world.”

Now, how exactly do Australian citizens feel about the investment their federal and state governments are making? Sixty percent of responders to a poll on the Sydney Morning Herald‘s website thought they were right to spend that kind of cash on Winfrey’s visit. (A large portion of the money will go toward accommodations, officials have said. Which could be why the Australian Hotels Association of Western Australia has reportedly offered free stays if Winfrey chooses to add Perth to her group’s itinerary, which includes Sydney, Melbourne or Cairns, and the Great Barrier Reef. In a juicy turn, the tourism minister of Western Australia is a bit ticked that she wasn’t made aware of Winfrey’s visit like her counterparts in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, which are partners on the deal.) In a separate SMH poll, 89 percent of responders said Winfrey is the celebrity who will have the biggest impact on Australian tourism. The other options were ’80spitchman Paul Hogan (7 percent) and Lara Bingle (3 percent), a model associated with 2006’s “Where the bloody hell are you?” campaign. That failed because not all countries appreciated the use of “bloody” and/or “hell.” Tourism Australia also spent far more money on the 2008 “Come Walkabout” campaign, tied to the Baz Luhrmann film Australia and featuring a commercial directed by him.

What do you think? Is the amount of attention this deal has already received — and will garner again when the episodes are filmed in December, and air in January — priceless? Wouldn’t you anticipate having all kinds of Australia-themed content and links to the destinations and accommodations featured in the episodes? (Tourism Australia already has a page dedicated to Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure.) Isn’t the sight of screaming Oprah fans an image that stays with you?

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