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SYDNEY — Oprah Winfrey’s arrival in Australia Wednesday was a more low-key affair than the media frenzy that greeted the talk show queen’s 302 audience members when they landed in Sydney the day before for their Ultimate Australian Adventure.
But Winfrey was caught by surprise by two mating koalas on arrival in the luxury resort of Queensland’s Hamilton Island, where she toured a local wildlife park with best friend Gayle King, and gave what will be her only interview to Australian Network Ten reporter Angela Bishop, in a tour that’s proving to be very tightly controlled by Harpo Productions.
Nevertheless she appears to be taking time to meet and greet the Australian fans.
After having stayed in the U.S. a day longer than her fellow adventurers to receive her Kennedy Center award from President Barack Obama, Winfrey flew into the north Queensland city of Cairns Wednesday on her private jet for a refueling and customs stop before heading to Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef.
There she said the idea of staying at a “real Aussie’s house is actually pretty appealing to me. I don’t know who that would be, but I’m not ruling that out.”
She also outlined her favorite Aussies.
“Hugh Jackman. I like him a lot. Baz Luhrmann! Like him a lot. Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, like them a lot. The little Irwin girl, liked her a lot. But it’s the regular folks, you know, getting to know just regular people. Like them a lot. So it’s going to be exciting for us.”
Her quieter arrival contrasted with the myriad of breakfast TV and news crews that greeted the Oprah’s audience, who after an overnight stay in Sydney will split up into groups of 50 to travel separately to various parts of the country, where they’ll be joined intermittently by Winfrey, before reuniting in Sydney next Tuesday Dec. 14 for the taping of two shows at the Sydney Opera House.
According to various reports the groups will be travelling to the Queensland Sunshine Coast, Hamilton Island, South Australia’s Barossa Valley and Kangaroo Island, Byron Bay and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Melbourne and the Yarra Valley in Victoria among others. All of Australia’s eight states and territories will be visited. Those keen for an active holiday will take a surfing lesson in Byron Bay, go bushwalking in the Blue Mountains or climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Winfrey’s personal itinerary is being kept firmly under wraps, although she did reveal that last week that she’ll travel to Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock in central Australia on Thursday, then she’ll make her only other official public appearance on Friday in Melbourne.
One local newspaper bravely compared the hype generated around Winfrey to the first time Queen Elizabeth II visited over four decades ago.
“We couldn’t be happier to be Down Under and are excited to bring our show to Australia,” Sheri Salata, president of Harpo Studios and executive producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show said in a statement. “Everyone has given us such a warm welcome and we can’t wait to explore the country and showcase the incredible stories we find along the way.”
Meanwhile several new partners have jumped on the Oprah bandwagon, eager to be part of the multi-million dollar advertising bonanza the visit and subsequent shows are expected to generate. Even before the travelers’ arrival, the Adventure has already raked in $17 million worth of coverage for Australia, according to Tourism Australia chief Andrew McEvoy.
He told the National Press Club last week that the Winfrey audience is a key target for the organization.
“Winfrey and her team will make at least four hours of dream come true television about Australia in this, her 25th and final season. Importantly, the program rates highest with above average income women aged 25-54. In our industry, they are the holiday decision makers,” he said.
“It’s great stuff and will have impact. But, on its own, it will not be the answer to Australian tourism’s growth aspirations,” he added.
The list of sponsors and partners has grown in the last few weeks to include Tourism Australia, Qantas Airways, Chevrolet, Motorola, American Express, Intercontinental Hotels Group, Microsoft Australia, Telstra, Kraft Foods Australia and the Sydney Opera House. Additional supporters include the New South Wales Government and Australia’s State and Territory Tourism Organizations.
Winfrey’s visit comes as she wraps up the final season of her eponymous talk show and readies to launch TV channel, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network in January.
It has yet to be announced if the channel, a joint venture between Harpo and Discovery Networks, will be broadcast here.
Winfrey was on Tuesday named as the fourth most influential Woman in Entertainment by The Hollywood Reporter yesterday. Topping the list was Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, who is heading also down under in March to keynote the pay TV industry’s annual ASTRA conference.
Video courtesy of NMA.
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