Tourism Queensland has tried all kinds of marketing ploys to get the northern Aussie state back on the map for overseas tourists in recent months, but their best bet might be an oversized crocodile from north Queensland. Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures north of Cairns is home to Shop Girl, a 3m, 150kg crocodile who is considered 30 percent overweight.
Crocodiles have a very efficient metabolism and apparently Shop Girl could go a year without eating and still be considered overweight. While zookeepers have tried to trim her waistline she is so good at stealing her companion’s food that efforts have so far been in vain.
So will tourists flock to see an oversized crocodile? Well based on the success of other tourism campaigns we’ve had, I’d say the chances are about even. Plus there’s something sadistically awful about a predator like Shop Girl gorging on too many chickens, or dare we say, tourists. I’d love to see her!
Anyway let me run you through some of our most outrageous and spectacular flops:
Baz Luhrman’s 2008 film “Australia” unfortunately failed to attract significant tourism numbers because the film didn’t pull in enough punters at the box office. Tourism Australia spent a $26 million advertising campaign based on the movie. I loved the film but I can see that it might not appeal to the overseas market.
In 2006 Tourism Australia spent $180 million on the “Where the Bloody Hell Are You?” campaign. Unfortunately visitor numbers fell two percent that year! The campaign caused more than a bit of controversy over the use of words “bloody” and “hell” and images of publicans pouring beer that might encourage alcoholism. It was banned or withdrawn in some countries! Prime Minister Kevin Rudd described it as a “rolled gold disaster”. Watch it and decide for yourself.
The most recent campaign was Tourism Queensland’s Island Reef Job. Some 35,000 people from around the world submitted applications for “The Best Job in the World” to become an island caretaker for six months and the campaign won a swag of awards, including a listing by famed international public relations company Taylor Herring in the Publicity Stunt Hall of Fame. But no one is sure whether it actually generated an increase in tourism to the Barrier Reef islands. The Australian Tourism and Transport Forum reported that 2009 was the worst year on record for the Australian tourism industry thanks to the global economic downturn, although 2010 is looking more hopeful. Apparently North Queensland had particularly poor tourism numbers in 2009.
Associated with this campaign was a series of television commercials featuring candidates from the “Best Job in the World” using The Monkees’ tune with the new lyrics “Hey hey we’re in Queensland” to promote locations in the state. The ads were largely bagged although Queensland Tourism Minister Peter Lawlor said, “The fact the “Best Holidays” tourism ads had sparked debate and discussion meant they were doing their job.”
So what exactly do we have to do to bring in the numbers? Unfortunately, with the Aussie dollar rising in strength it does mean prices are increasingly more expensive for overseas tourists. But I also think Shop Girl is as interesting as any bikini clad girls or exotic reef island for foreign tourism. So will she bring in the numbers? Well I’d certainly consider visiting Cairns to see the tubby croc.