“I love Australia, I love Australia, I love Australia,” Winfrey screamed to a crowd of 6,000 adoring fans that had won tickets to attend the filming of Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure in the shadow of the Sydney Opera House.
“To the rest of the world watching, you have got to come to Australia,” she shouted, to cries of delight from the audience.
The ringing endorsement will be music to the ears of Tourism Australia, which has shelled out $4m (£2.5m) to fly Winfrey, her 300 American guests and contingent of 200 crew to the country for the eight-day whirlwind tour.
Qantas, the national carrier, which stumped up $1m towards the extravaganza, is also expected to profit handsomely from the visit.
The Australian tourism industry is facing its toughest period for 30 years as a result of the high Australian dollar and a slow recovery from the global recession that has kept international visitor numbers low.
But already, the “lovefest” has generated $14m (£8.7m) worth of publicity in the US and $71m (£44m) domestically. When the four shows made in Australia over the past week air in America and 143 other countries around the world early next year, those numbers are expected to boom.
Speaking before the shows were recorded, Winfrey, who is estimated to be worth $2.7bn, said the benefits to Australian tourism from her high-profile trip around the country would be “immeasurable”.
Over the course of the past eight days Winfrey and her American guests have visited 25 tourist destinations across Australia, from the Great Barrier Reef to the Great Ocean Road and Ayers Rock to Sydney Harbour.
In each instalment of the four Australian shows, Winfrey will showcase a different part of the nation. Yesterday (TUES) she was joined by local stars Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and the family of the late Steve Irwin to sing the praises of Australia.
Hailing the friendliness of Australians, Winfrey said she had not had such a warm reception in 25 years of television.
Naming herself an “unofficial ambassador” for Australia with the “biggest mouth on earth,” she said each one of the 302 US guests would also be “ambassadors for life” for the country.
Some 200 members of the group had never left America before flying out last week.
“They didn’t even know where Australia was, they had never said the world ‘Australia’,” Winfrey said.
In a nod to the extraordinary power she wields, including the power to send a book, film or musician to the top of the charts with a word of approval, Winfrey acknowledged that Australia was fortunate that she had enjoyed herself during the tour.
Speaking to the audience during a break in filming she said: “I said to the tourism minister this morning, ‘Aren’t you glad I liked it?’
“It would have been such a shame if I didn’t like Australia and wanted to go back home.” Instead, she said she the visit to Australia had been an almost holy experience. Winfrey said she had cried when she saw a giant ‘O’ in lights on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
“This experience for me and our 302 viewers has been really of a divine order, it has been heaven-sent,” she told the crowd at the end of the morning show.
Martin Ferguson, the Tourism Minister, said the Winfrey visit was a wise investment that would pay off.
Alan Joyce, the Qantas chief, agreed, saying it was “one of the best tourism initiatives Australia will ever make.” The Telegraph