Brazil tourism boost as Juliana Paes and Totalmente Demais stars film in Australia

TAKE ONE: Juliana Paes – Brazilian actress, TV presenter, Playboy magazine cover girl and once declared by People magazine to be one of the 100 sexiest people on the planet – signs on to play Carolina, the "seductive tyrant editor-in-chief" of Totalmente Demais, the fictional magazine that is also the title of Brazil's new telenovela.

TAKE TWO: Telenovela king Fabio Assuncao, winner of the 2009 Best Actor award at the Brazilian Film Festival also agrees to star in the series produced by Globo, Brazil's largest TV broadcaster.

CUE AUSTRALIA: These telenovelas are guaranteed massive audiences in Brazil.

What better way of promoting Australia as a tourist destination to Brazilians than by persuading the producers to set key scenes of Totalmente Demais in carefully selected locations around NSW and Queensland?

Which is why Paes and Assuncao are here this week in Australia, filming in Sydney and the Whitsundays as part of a $US1 million partnership with Tourism Australia, Destination NSW and Tourism and Events Queensland.

In Totalmente Demais (the Brazilian equivalent of "simply the best"), Paes plays the beautiful but ruthless editor relaunching a style magazine, which involves fashion shoots in Australia.

Key locations include classic Sydney settings such as Bondi Beach, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Sydney Opera House, Hotel Intercontinental and Quay restaurant, plus Queensland's Bait Reef, Hamilton Island and Whitehaven Beach.

Australia appears in four episodes of Totalmente Demais, and there will be lots of spin-off publicity during the six months it is being broadcast since five of Brazil's top newspapers and magazines are also here covering the filming.

Why Brazil? And why would a publicly funded body like Tourism Australia invest in a telenovela?

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"This is really about getting Brand Australia seen by as many eyeballs as we can," explains John O'Sullivan, Tourism Australia's managing director.

"Our arrivals from Brazil over the past 12 months are up by 19 per cent. Brazil is a fast emerging market. There is a growing middle class that has high disposable income, they want to travel, and they are beginning to discover Australia. So it is a market we want to build on over the next five years.

"And this type of telenovela will reach around 22 million viewers per minute. Some 156 million Brazilians admit to watching one of Globo's telenovelas. That's 78 per cent of the nation's population. For us, this is all about building our brand and our presence in Brazil.

"We have identified Brazil – along with the United States and China – as one of three markets we are focusing on in the premium travel sector. Our target is to get a 10 per cent increase in luxury travel out of those three markets over the next 12 months."

Globo produces several telenovelas a year, each one screening for six days a week for six months.

While the locations obviously have to fit the plot, the three Australian tourism bodies had a say in which parts of Australia figure in the show. For example, the director asked for suggestions about where to film a bar scene. Opera Bar, with its views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, suited everyone.

It's hardly the first time Tourism Australia has invested in foreign TV shows or films as a way of seducing would-be tourists.

Two episodes of Running Man, a South Korean adventure challenge series, were shot in the Gold Coast and Melbourne in 2013 and were aired in China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia as well as Korea. Korean visitors to Australia rose by 8 per cent in the year ended July 2015. Coincidence?

Australian-born, Britain-based chef John Torode is now in discussions with Tourism Australia and UKTV about a second series of John Torode's Australia. The first series – filmed in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia – was so successful it was repeated several times on UKTV's Good Food Channel.

Likewise, American chef Eric Ripert recently filmed six episodes of his Avec Eric In Australia TV series on the Cooking Channel, which have been seen by 140 million people so far.

Tourism Australia's most high-profile TV partnership was with American talk show host Oprah Winfrey in December 2010. Her four shows from Australia were shown in Canada and the US in January 2011, and repeated in the US two months later.

Did that result in more American visitors to Australia? According to market research in October 2011 of 500 Americans who had either travelled to Australia in the previous six months or had booked to travel in the next 12 months, 73 per cent said the show had influenced their decision to pick Australia as their destination.

In November 2011, Tourism Australia targeted the Indian market, helping to finance Bollywood's first film foray to Australia with From Sydney...With Love which included locations such as the Opera House, Darling Harbour and Kings Cross. About 23 million people saw it.

The following year, Melbourne had a chance to star (alongside Sydney and Tasmania) in Heartbeat Love, a Taiwanese online mini-series starring Rainie Yang and Show Lo, which was seen by 10 million people in China.

Tourism Australia says it is notoriously hard to measure exactly how such broadcasts influence decisions about long-haul travel.

However, if visitor numbers and spending are any guide, both India and China are at record highs. The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the number of Indians and Chinese visiting Australia in the year ended July 2015 were 222,000 and 939,500 – a rise of 19.2 per cent and 21.6 per cent respectively.

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