Indian Pacific and The Ghan train owners Journey Beyond bought by US firm for $600 million

When Vegemite was snatched back into local control five years ago, the near heretical spread of iconic Australian brands into US corporate hands seemed to have been finally licked. But now, two of the most legendary and long-running brands in Australia's tourism have been snaffled by the Americans.

Journey Beyond, operators of the Indian Pacific and The Ghan, which for decades have regularly featured prominently in the world's best long-distance rail journeys lists, has been bought by the US-based Hornblower Group for a reported $600 million.

However, Hornblower's undoubted experience and expertise in tourism perhaps leaves a much less bitter taste than that of Vegemite's previous US owner, Mondelez International, before it was bought by the dinki-di Bega Cheese in 2017 .

Hornblower is a leading pleasure cruise operator and runs boat trips to and from the likes of Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty and Alcatraz.

The sale will almost certainly be crucial in eventually attracting American tourists back Down Under. According to Tourism Australia, in 2019 the US was Australia's third largest inbound market and the second largest for total visitor expenditure.

It also rather neatly coincides with the much-delayed comeback of the Indian Pacific's 4352-kilometre rail journey between Sydney and Perth, which regularly spanned the continent before the pandemic.

The last time the train ran on this epic route was June 20 last year after restarting services on March 4 following a year-long hiatus. The train has been stalled by repeated border closures, particularly by Western Australia, which finally plans to reopen its borders on February 5.

Operations of The Ghan, the Indian Pacific's sister train, which runs on the 2979-kilometre Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs route, has fared considerably better though it has also suffered pandemic-induced interruptions.

The first departure of the Indian Pacific following the reopening of the West Australian border will be on February 10 with the Adelaide-Perth leg. The full transcontinental journey from Sydney to Perth will then depart on February 16. A limited number of cabins are still available.

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The deal between Quadrant Private Equity, Journey Beyond's 13-brand-strong Australian-based owner, with Hornblower, which is described as "a global leader in world-class tourism experiences and transportation" is expected to be finalised by mid to late next month. Other brands include the Overland and Great Southern trains, as well as the Melbourne Skydeck in Melbourne's tallest building, the Eureka Tower.

No doubt Hornblower's senior US executives are looking forward to settling into the dining car of either the Indian Pacific or the Ghan for what may be their first sampling of our national spread, a delicacy which, it must be said, is not universally adored by the rest of the world.

See also: Epic and spectacular: The world's 24 ultimate train journeys

See also: On board the Ghan: what it's really like on Australia's greatest train journey

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