Tourism takes Olympics gold
Tourism is the big winner of the Sydney Olympics, Australia's tourist chief said on Thursday, predicting an extra 1.6 million extra visitors in the decade straddling the 2000 Games.
The additional arrivals, lured by blanket media coverage and advertising by Games sponsors, would bring A$1.6 billion ($880 million) in revenues to a tourist industry that accounts for 10 percent of Australia's economy, John Morse said.
"It's been way, way beyond our expectations," the managing director of the Australian Tourist Commission told a news conference.
"Sydney and Australia are the stars of the Games, but the big winner is tourism."
Sydney shopkeepers, hoteliers and restaurateurs are grumbling that the Games have failed to deliver the expected bonanza.
But Morse said expectations of a retail windfall during the Games themselves had been overblown, even though the sporting extravaganza has attracted 110,000 international visitors likely to spend A$500 million.
The real benefits would kick in from November and December during the Australian summer, he said. Next year, Australia hoped for a record five million visitors, up 10 percent from this year.
And the commercial glow from the Games would last for a decade from 1997 to 2004.
Morse said the Games had presented a new image of Australia, focusing on culture, food and wine and lifestyle, that had reached countries -- including France and Italy -- where Down Under traditionally has been off the map.
"It's set us up like no other event in the history of this country," he said.
Australia already topped the list of most desirable destinations in the United States, Britain, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, he said.
In the run-up to the Games, Australian tourism authorities paid for visits by 3,000 journalists from around the world. It would have cost around A$2 billion to buy the publicity their reports generated, Morse said, adding that the cost to Australia was only A$3-5 million a year.
A total of 21,000 journalists were accredited to the Games, which have been watched by a global television audience of almost three billion.
"The media influence on tourism has been very important," he said.
More free press had been generated by a global advertising blitz paid for by Games sponsors, including Visa International and McDonald's Corp.
After the Games, the tourist commission would air a string of television advertisements featuring Paul Hogan, star of the Crocodile Dundee movies.
Morse said the Australian dollar's dramatic slide, particularly against the U.S. currency, would have little effect in encouraging tourism spending. Airlines, he noted, did not adjust prices in tandem with currency movements.
But visitors would return home spreading word that Australia was "a great place to visit and a great value destination".
"Overall, in the longer term, it's good for international tourism," Morse said.
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