Nicole Kidman is being hailed as a potential saviour of the Australian tourism industry.
British travel agents are predicting Kidman’s role in the Baz Luhrmann wartime epic Australia will give a much-needed boost to the numbers of British visitors to this country.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures last week showed British tourist numbers fell by 6 per cent to 57,000 last November, compared with the same period in 2006.
The flood of British cricket fans to Australia for the Ashes tour in 2006 was one factor for the difference, but not the only one.
The tourism industry’s representative body, the Tourism and Transport Forum, said foreign tourist numbers were forecast to increase by 3.7 per cent last year but actually rose by only 2.9 per cent.
The number of arrivals from Korea fell by 13 per cent last year, and Japanese tourist numbers fell by 12 per cent.
Tourism Australia managing director Geoff Buckley said the exchange rate had contributed to the fall-off in Japanese tourists, and a rise in the cost of package holidays in Korea had hit hard.
Offsetting the bad news was a pronouncement by the Association of British Travel Agents that Australia was a “destination hot spot” for British tourists this year.
The association predicts that Kidman’s starring role in Australia will boost numbers, as would the launch of the Formula One racing season in Melbourne in March and the Rugby League World Cup in October.
“Whenever we do a survey of where people would travel to if money was no object, Australia always tops the list,” a spokesman said.
“Brits love Australia. They love the climate and the people and what it has to offer. The problem is that it’s such a long-haul holiday for them. It’s not like hopping over to Spain for a couple of weeks.
“Nicole Kidman is very popular in the UK, so the film will definitely boost interest in Darwin among tourists.
“Sport always helps. The Ashes really increased tourist numbers and the rugby could do the same this year. People see coming to Australia as a trip of a lifetime so they want to see as much as they can when they get there.”
A recent poll of Britons by Virgin Travel Insurance to find the “must-see” spots around the world ranked the Harbour Bridge fourth after Petra in Jordan, the Grand Canal in Venice and Kenya’s Masai Mara park.