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Doing A Dundee

By Tom Colls
Today programme

Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman from the movie "Australia"
Can Nicole and Hugh do a Dundee for the Australian tourist industry?
When Crocodile Dundee called on the world to "put another shrimp on the barbie", the number of tourists visiting Australia doubled.

But in recent years visitor numbers have levelled off, falling last month by 7.5%.

Now, with the release of the Baz Luhrmann-directed, 88.2m epic Australia, the Australian tourist authorities are hoping to replicate the Dundee effect, by drawing in a new generation of movie tourists.

"When you have a country that has been so exposed to the world, sometimes you need something new, a little bit more magic just to lift it up again," says Nick Baker, of Tourism Australia.

From the Da Vinci Code tour of the streets of London to the lines of walkers climbing the slopes of Mount Ngauruhoe in New Zealand - better know as Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings trilogy - film tourism is big business.

But what will it take for Australia: The Movie to translate into a tourism success?

Dr Libbie McQuillan, a senior analyst at Olsberg SPI, has researched some of the biggest tourism-attracting films in a report for the UK Film Council.

Scene from Crocodile Dundee
Australian tourism doubled following the release of Crocodile Dundee
She found that what worked was really a "no-brainer" - loud, operatic, feel-good films with pre-existing historical or literary resonance inspired a big response.

It was also important for the film landscape to fit into people's idea of the country. For Britain that means rural villages and historic buildings. For Australia - crocodiles, kangaroos and desert wilderness.

Most importantly, she says, "a character in the film needs to have a strong emotional contact with the landscape, almost like the landscape is a character in the film".

And her prediction for Australia? "How can a film called Australia, set in Australia, about Australia, not work very well for tourism?"

Any publicity...

Even bad publicity has been known to draw in curious tourists.

Borat, the film in which comedian Sacha Baron Cohen plays a Kazakh TV journalist, attracted international attention for a country portrayed in the film as misogynistic, racist and anti-Semitic.

Despite this, Kazakh ambassador Yerlan Idrissov said that the film "was free of charge advertising and lots of people want to come and see our country".

Borat (aka Sacha Baron Cohen)
Kazakh tourism saw a boost from the Borat movie

Surprisingly, gory horror movies also bring in movie fanatics.

US tourists regularly travel to the Black Hills of Burkittsville, Maryland, to frighten themselves in the woods featured in the Blair Witch Project and to the house in Georgetown, Washington DC in which a child is possessed by the devil in the film The Exorcist.

The US state of Georgia even reported a boom in white water rafting following the release of the film Deliverance, which depicts a horrific worst-case-scenario for those taking a trip down the river.

Careful choice

Tony Reeves, author of The Worldwide Guide To Movie Locations, says that film tourism can be so effective in bringing in the crowds that production companies have to be careful in their choice of location.

On one hand there is the minor annoyance of trying to take a photograph of the fountain in Salzburg's Mirabell Gardens, unhindered by groups of perfectly choreographed tourists singing Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music.

On the other, the huge influx of people following the success of film The Beach threatened to damage the previously unspoiled Ko Phi Phi Lee island in Thailand.

"If a location is overrun it can be a bit disconcerting," says Mr Reeves.

"People sometimes go to great lengths to cover up street names or addresses of locations featured in film. Sometimes the attention can be intrusive."

However, for a tourist board trying to draw people into their country, the only real danger is that their investment will come to nothing.

"Success can't be guaranteed. Sometimes there is a huge push for a film with a big director and big stars, and it turns out not to the huge success that people were assuming it was going to be," he says.

"All the same, they've got to take that gamble."


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