The 30th anniversary of Australian classic film Crocodile Dundee will help drive a “major revival” in international tourism to the Top End, says Kakadu Tourism as it prepares for a month-long celebration of all things Mick.
Crocodile Dundee, which first screened on April 30 1986, featured some of the Top End’s key locations such as Ubirr, Nourlangie and Gunlom, putting the region on the world tourism map.
Thirty years on, Kakadu is going to be showcased to the world once again with the launch of the first-ever Discovery Month throughout April.
The event will give the local Bininj/Mungguy people an opportunity to tell their stories and share with visitors their “unique and special” way of life, according to Kakadu Tourism.
Alongside the local park rangers, they will hold bush food walks, weaving workshops and art demonstrations, along with free guided walks.
The Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel will host a Kakadu film night every Saturday night during April, along with art demonstrations and workshops in its own Aboriginal art gallery.
Visitors will be able to hear Bininj stories and meet the locals at Warradjan Cultural Centre, and nearby Yellow Water Cruises will offer a range of daily tours on Yellow Water Billabong.
The event aims to once again draw the international spotlight onto the region which was largely unknown around the world until Crocodile Dundee lit up the silver screen.
“When audiences around the world saw Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski swim in the picturesque rock pool at Gunlom they immediately wanted to know how they could visit Kakadu,” Kakadu Tourism chair Rick Allert said.
“Since then, the region’s tourism infrastructure has developed, offering a network of sealed roads, quality accommodation like the Crocodile Hotel and Cooinda Lodge, and tourism activities such as Yellow Water Cruises, Spirit of Kakadu 4WD tours, and niche operations catering for fishing, bird watching and trekking.”
Although Kakadu is now much easier for tourists to experience than it was 30 years ago, Allert stressed that the area is now fully protected as a national park and so remains a “pristine” wilderness area which respects its local Indigenous heritage.
However, the impact of the movie on Australian tourism is the subject of some debate.
In 2008, associate professor at LaTrobe University Sue Beeton insisted that to state that Crocodile Dundee “categorically increased” international tourism numbers to Australia was “to draw a long bow”.
“The release of the movie coincided with a number of things happening in Australia in the 1980s that encouraged tourism from North America, including the floating of the Australian dollar, the 1988 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane and our bi-centennial celebrations,” she continued.
“In addition, Paul Hogan had been used to successfully promote Australia to the North American market for some years prior to Crocodile Dundee. In actual fact, many Americans referred to the movie as ‘starring that guy from the TV ads’.”
Hogan was honoured at the 10th annual G’Day USA gala for his role in the 1984 Australian “shrimp on the barbie” tourism campaign, which pre-dated the movie, which first promoted the country as a destination for Americans.
Beeton conceded that the the movie may have added to Americans’ desire to visit Australia as well as reinforcing the image of a particular ‘type’ of Australian but stressed it was impossible to credit the movie as single-handedly increasing tourism to Australia.
Tourism Australia managing director John O’Sullivan acknowledged the “hugely successful” movie’s impact, but stressed that times have changed.
“I think there’s much that is good to be attributed to Paul Hogan in the Crocodile Dundee movies and, before that too, with the Come Say G’Day campaign in terms of the increased profile it gave Australia, particularly in the United States,” he told Travel Weekly.
“The scenes filmed in Australia provided wonderful exposure for our country’s raw, rugged nature and warm and welcoming people, embodied by Mick Dundee.”
However, O’Sullivan described the movie as a “reflection of the times”, adding that Australia has “moved on”.
“The image you see presented of our country today in our global campaigns is more sophisticated and multi-faceted with focus placed on key drivers of visitation, such as food and wine and, now, aquatic and coastal experiences,” he said.
“Whilst we still use celebrity as part of our marketing, as we are doing now with Chris Hemsworth, Australia is very much the real star of our campaigns.”
Hemsworth provides the voiceover for Tourism Australia’s coastal and aquatic campaign which launched in New York earlier this week. The launch coincides nicely with the Crocodile Dundee anniversary, providing an additional boost for Kakadu which is the location of a number of coastal and inland waterways, waterfalls and rock pools, all of which are home to a rich and diverse wildlife.
But with nature-based tourism one of Australia’s most powerful drawcards for international tourists, Kakadu Tourism’s Allert is confident the campaign will boost interest from overseas markets, and particularly from the US.
“This is a tremendous campaign because while Australia is renowned for its beaches, the campaign highlights that Australia also has superb inland aquatic attractions, and fortunately Kakadu offers some of the country’s most attractive,” he said.
Kakadu Tourism will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of Crocodile Dundee with a special commemorative day in Kakadu on April 30 plus launching In the Footsteps of Crocodile Dundee 4WD adventure tours visiting the key sites from the film.