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Hoges, Luhrmann, Hemsworth: how they helped tourism

Tourism Australia's John O'Sullivan looks at how film, TV and Aussie stars such as Paul Hogan have helped put Australia on the map and keep it there.

Paul Hogan accepting his AACTA Longford Lyell Award/Mark Metcalfe: Getty Images

Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan says it’s hard to quantify just how big the impact of film and television has been on local tourism.

A report commissioned by Screen Australia estimated that thanks to Aussie screen content, approximately 230,000 international tourists visit Australia or extend their stay each year– and spend an estimated $725 million.

But O’Sullivan suspects the number could be even larger.

“It’s not surprising at all,” he says of the findings.

“The only thing is I suspect the number would probably be greater than (that). If you combined the direct and indirect spend and then the halo effect, I think you would probably find that figure is a bit understated.”

O’Sullivan says the significance of the screen industry on tourism works on a number of levels.

“(There’s) the pure economic benefit of having say the Matrix shot in Australia or George Lucas shooting some of the Star Wars films here,” he says.

“(Then) it’s also undoubtedly a tourism platform, whether it’s use of scenery, use of actors from Australia and so on.

“But then it gets into the whole sense of identity and brand building.”

Which is where people like Paul Hogan, Baz Luhrmann, and most recently, Chris Hemsworth, come in.

In 1984, a pre-Crocodile Dundee Hogan released the famous Say G’Day and Put Another Shrimp on the Barbie advertisements.

Then two years later along came Mick Dundee. Now 30 years later, and this week ‘Hoges’ has been awarded the AACTA Longford Lyell Award to honour his “outstanding contribution to the Australian screen industry”.

Hogan remembers helping take Australia to the US.

“No one knew about us. Australia? It’s green on the map, it’s got kangaroos and that was sort of it,” he says.

“And we took it… up to number 1 and the movie (Crocodile Dundee) helped that too…

“Anything we do that makes Australia attractive… I think it’s a positive.”

O’Sullivan says Hogan undoubtedly played a huge part in putting Australia on the map – particularly in the US.

“What he did was he introduced the whole notion of Australia being a welcoming, friendly destination and obviously an amazing destination in terms of natural scenery,” he says.

“Then through Crocodile Dundee he really opened up the whole area of Indigenous culture and took the concept of the Outback into the mainstream.”

O’Sullivan says when the Tourism Australia works with people like Hogan, like Baz Luhrmann and Chris Hemsworth they are really appealing to the sense of patriotism that those figures have in themselves.

“It’s probably been a combination. It’s opened the eyes of people like Baz and Chris and others that these can be complementary to their own career, but it’s also about the fundamental fact that they’re Australian and they’re proud to be Australian and they want to tell the rest of the world.”