Updated December 8, 2010 20:15:00
Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey has arrived on Queensland’s Hamilton Island for the first leg of her whirlwind Australian adventure.
The tv diva’s private jet touched down on the holiday paradise yesterday afternoon after a brief stopover at Cairns Airport to refuel and be processed by Customs.
About a dozen fans turned up at the airport in the hope of meeting Winfrey but were left disappointed when she remained aboard her jet during refuelling.
Winfrey was expected to hold a private party for the 100-plus fans who have joined her on Hamilton Island before spending the night at one of the island’s resorts.
Earlier, she got to hold a koala for the first time.
“While she was doing it, a couple of other koalas wandered on to the branch in front of her eyes and decided to have a romantic moment together,” Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said.
“So not many people ever get to see that and Oprah thought it was absolutely hilarious, so I think we will see all of that on US tv as well.”
In September, Winfrey announced she was flying her 300-strong studio audience to Australia as a way of wrapping up her 25th and final season in grand style.
The audience – whose ages range from 18 to 75 – is comprised of 242 women and 60 men, 42 of them couples.
Two episodes of the Oprah show will be filmed at the Sydney Opera House next week, with about 12,000 Australians expected to watch the filming live.
A third episode will feature her guests’ travel experiences at some of Australia’s top tourist destinations.
The lucky contingent of diehard fans arrived in Sydney on Tuesday and have been broken into smaller groups as they go out to experience locations including The Great Barrier Reef, Kangaroo Island, Uluru and the Yarra Valley.
Winfrey is due to hold her only public appearance at a civic reception in Melbourne’s Federation Square on Friday.
Australia’s governments have spent $5 million luring Winfrey Down Under in the hope the much-publicised visit will help breathe life into the country’s struggling tourism industry.
Ms Bligh states it is priceless publicity for the state’s tourism industry.
“The US market is a very large market for us and these visitors who come and when they are here spend a lot of money and we want to make sure they tell their friends about it and have a terrific time,” she said.
“Oprah Winfrey can take these photos of Queensland to millions of people. It’s advertising that no-one could afford to buy.”
Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) director Christopher Brown also states the visit provides a large opportunity.
“This endorsement of Australia as a desirable tourism destination will put Australia front and centre for millions of Oprah viewers around the world, including 40 million a week in the US alone,” he said.
“Oprah is a saleswoman without peer. She has an capability to convert awareness into action like no other person.
“Her viewers trust implicitly the products she recommends, and that is great news for Australia.”
First posted December 8, 2010 16:47:00
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