Oprah's first stop: Hamilton Island

By Evan Schwarten

US talk show queen Oprah Winfrey has arrived on Hamilton Island for the first leg of her whirlwind Australian adventure.

The television diva's Bombardier jet touched down on the holiday paradise yesterday afternoon.

She was expected to hold a private party for the 100-plus fans who have joined her on the island before spending the night at the luxury Qualia resort.

Winfrey arrived in Australia earlier yesterday with a brief stopover at Cairns Airport to refuel and be processed by customs.

About a dozen fans turned up at the airport in the hope of meeting Winfrey but were left disappointed when the talkshow host remained aboard her jet during refuelling.

She announced in September she was flying her 300-strong studio audience to Australia as a way of wrapping up her 25th and final season in grand style.

Two episodes of The Oprah Winfrey Show will be filmed at the Sydney Opera House next week.

A third episode will feature her guests' travel experiences at some of Australia's top tourist destinations.

The lucky contingent of diehard fans have been broken into smaller groups as they go out to experience locations including The Great Barrier Reef, Kangaroo Island, Uluru and the Yarra valley.

Winfrey will hold her only public appearance at a civic reception in Melbourne's Federation Square tomorrow.

Australian governments have spent A$5 million luring Winfrey Down Under in the hope the much-publicised visit will breathe life into the country's struggling tourism industry.

Tourism & Transport Forum (TTF) director Christopher Brown said the visit was a huge opportunity for the industry.

"This endorsement of Australia as a desirable tourism destination will put Australia front and centre for millions of Oprah viewers around the world including 40 million a week in the US alone," he said.

"Oprah is a saleswoman without peer, she has an ability to convert awareness into action like no other person. Her viewers trust implicitly the products that she recommends, and that's great news for Australia."


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