Australia to pick up tab for Oprah trip

Will cost about $3 million

Oprah Winfrey isn't picking up the tab to send her biggest fans on an all-expenses paid trip down under.

Australia's government is footing the $2.8 million bill in an effort to attract more travelers to the country, Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said in a statement Tuesday.

"Oprah is a household name and her star power has the potential to lift Australia's profile as a premier tourist destination," Ferguson said.

Former federal tourism minister John Brown already anticipates criticism. He has asked the media not to be "cynical about the cost," according to Reuters.

"We spent hundreds of millions of dollars over 30 years without much effect, I must say that honestly," he said at a press conference. "The publicity that Oprah will bring to Australia around the world is something you couldn't buy."

Winfrey -- who surprised her 300-person audience with the trip on Monday's 25th season premiere -- will tape two episodes of her talk show in Australia this December.

She's stepping down from her talk show to focus on her Oprah Winfrey Network, which is slated to hit airwaves on January 1, 2011.
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