You may have heard Oprah’s in town. Certainly if you’re in Queensland …

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The talk-show queen and her sizeable entourage landed her private jet in the Sunshine State yesterday ahead of her cross-country Down Under experience. Tourism operators are licking their lips in anticipation, as a giddy Townsville Bulletin pointed out in its editorial:

“Oprahmania has hit Queensland and it was the Whitsundays which took pride of place yesterday for the queen of United States talkshow television. The beautiful islands off Airlie Beach provided a wonderful backdrop for Oprah’s TV crews and is a perfect way to promote Australia to the US. As Americans freeze, they are being shown images of the Great Barrier Reef and the idyllic surrounds of Queensland’s most pristine holiday destinations. Her photo shoot yesterday with Elvis the koala will be on plenty of front pages today. It’s a breath of fresh air for our beleaguered tourism industry, which is doing it tough, especially those destinations relying on international visitors. For years, Tourism Australia has struggled to get our international destination marketing right. It just goes to show that a TV star visiting our shores has more PR potency than any fancy advertising pitch.”

But other newspaper editors felt jilted. At the Gold Coast Bulletin Oprah fans were left to wonder why she was bypassing the glitter strip. From its editorial today:

“It is a pity the Gold Coast missed out as a specific destination but there lies a great opportunity for smart marketing to redirect Oprah-inspired visitors to our city.”

But the people of Cairns feel most hard done-by after Oprah’s flying visit. The private jet landed at Cairns yesterday afternoon for refuelling and a Customs clearance (a sniffer dog was asked back by Oprah, not the guard, mind) — then after a mere hour and 15 minutes jetted off to Hamilton Island.

Oprah never emerged from the comfort of her flying suite.

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In fact, as the devastated paper wrote on its leader page, Oprah didn’t “even give us a wave”:

“We realise the weather is a little balmy at this time of year, but is it too much to ask for a quick acknowledgement once she landed in Cairns, the tropical jewel of Queensland?”

It seems so. But, they pleaded, “the open invitation for the multibillionaire media mogul still stands”:

“Snorkle on the Reef, get up close and personal with a crocodile, experience Aboriginal culture in the rainforest or just sit back and relax by the Esplanade Lagoon.

“There’s plenty to do in the Far North Oprah — you just need to step out of your jet to experience it.”

Today, Oprah and her support group are expected to depart for Uluru on the next leg of her top-secret adventure. The people of Queensland will watch forlornly as her plane flies overhead — never, you’d think, to return.

Perhaps you should have played a little harder to get, guys.

Peter Fray

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