THE filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, whose movie Australia will form the centrepiece of a $40 million tourism advertising campaign globally, has said that whether the film succeeds or flops, its publicity will give Australia's hard-pressed tourism industry a shot in the arm.
Mr Luhrmann's production company will make two ads to air around the world in the lead-up to the film's November release.
The advertising campaign will not feature the main stars, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, or the film itself, but it will reflect its key themes of adventure, romance and the emotional transformation people undergo when travelling in isolated areas of the outback.
One of Australia's young stars, the Aboriginal actor Brandon Walters, will appear in the ad that tourism chiefs hope will promote Australia's indigenous heritage as an "authentic experience".
The ads, for which Mr Luhrmann said he was paid "mates' rates", will eschew tourism landmarks. "What we hope to do is convey an emotional experience that is possible from going the extra distance and coming to this unique, special place on the edge of the world," he said.
Tourism Australia and Mr Luhrmann agreed much was riding on the strategy, which is a stopgap until a successor to the derided Where The Bloody Hell Are You? campaign is found.
To a question about the chance of the film flopping, Mr Luhrmann said: "That's an absolute reality, that's an absolute possibility."
But Tourism Australia says the movie's $US100 million ($105 million) promotional budget will generate enough "noise" to ensure maximum awareness.
The managing director of the Australian Tourism Export Council, Matthew Hingerty, welcomed the campaign, saying it would help to keep Australia top of mind as a tourist destination when global travel picked up.
The number of holidaymakers coming to Australia has remained virtually flat since the Sydney Olympics, he said.
But Sue Beeton, associate professor in tourism at La Trobe University, is sceptical about film-induced tourism benefits, saying Ned Kelly in 2003 failed to lure more visitors to regional Victoria.
Films based on successful books such as the Da Vinci Code and Lord Of The Rings fared better for Paris and New Zealand.
"I am even more concerned when I see government funds being put into promoting such ventures with little, if any, independent research into 'film-induced tourism'," she said.