Ellen's visit gives tourism industry 16 million reasons to be happy

Television talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and her Australian-born wife Portia de Rossi have been married since 2008, but it took the combined resources of Swisse Wellness, Qantas, Destination NSW and Tourism Victoria to get them to de Rossi's home country for the first time.

The high-profile duo are winging it back to the US after a whirlwind visit that included Sydney and Melbourne.

No one is saying how much was spent to lure the celebrity couple here, but the tourist industry claims the visit will bring benefits, possibly similar to those generated by talk show host Oprah Winfrey's "Ultimate Australian Adventure" in December 2010.

Oprah's visit was criticised because its benefit to the Australian tourist economy was apparently intangible, but research provided by Tourism Australia, which paid $1.8 million to bring Oprah's audience to Australia, shows that nearly 50 per cent of US travellers who came here within 12 months of Oprah's tour were influenced by her.

Oprah's visit to Australia generated more than 86,000 news articles across the world, with an estimated equivalent advertising value of $368 million, Tourism Australia said.

Her show was broadcast in 145 countries to more than 40 million viewers.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show has a global audience of more than 16 million people in 23 countries. Based on the Oprah estimates and audience size, that would put the value of Ellen's visit at about $147 million in advertising value.

"There is enormous value in the exposure that a trusted international celebrity like Ellen brings to Australia – it's worth far more than a paid advertisement," said Trent Zimmerman, the acting chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum.

"It's an audience which trusts her endorsement – primarily educated women who are doing well, who strongly influence their families' travel decisions."


Sandra Chipchase, chief executive of Destination NSW, said media interest in the visit had been enormous.

"'In the days following the announcement by the NSW Government that Ellen was coming to Sydney, 300 major media outlets across the US posted the news in the first hour, and media interest in her visit has continued.

"Pictures of Ellen and Portia enjoying a ride on a Sydney ferry, feeding the giraffes at Taronga Zoo and visiting Manly beach on a glorious day, have made it across the world. We believe it will certainly provide a boost for tourism."

Qantas chief Alan Joyce said that having the show film segments in Victoria and NSW was a major coup for tourism.

"The exposure is priceless for the tourism industry," he said.

As part of the original announcement of the visit, Qantas gave The Ellen DeGeneres Show's audience of 400 on the day a free return trip to Sydney or Melbourne. More than 100 have booked their flight, with a quarter choosing to bring another person. More bookings are expected around the November Thanksgiving holiday, Qantas said.

The US is a key source market for Australian tourism, with 478,900 people coming here from the US in 2012, an increase of about 5 per cent on 2011, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.