‘Hemsworth effect’ behind Australian tourism boom
The Hollywood halo effect of having the Hemsworths in our big Aussie backyard has done wonders for some of the nation's top travel destinations.
Since leaving the rat-race lifestyle of Los Angeles behind in favour of a chilled coastal existence in the bucolic NSW town of Byron Bay, Hemsworth and his Spanish wife Elsa Pataky have not only become a pin up couple for a laid back lifestyle, but also played host to some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
Now, Lord Howe Island has become one of Tourism Australia's top 10 most viewed Instagram images for 2020 after Hemsworth took his family there.
Tourism Australia Managing Director Phillipa Harrison told News Corp Australia is having a major moment as a travel destination.
"Chris Hemsworth is an incredible ambassador for Australia and the Australian lifestyle," she said.
After sharing the idyllic spot with his 45 million Instagram followers, the Thor star "opened up a whole new audience to Lord Howe."
"It's a real undiscovered gem," she said.
US actor Kate Walsh, who has ridden out the pandemic in Western Australia, has also been a huge advocate for our nation's beauty.
A photo of a quokka and joey from Rottnest Island also made the list with 2.5 million views.
"Most Australians don't think 'I'm going to Ningaloo Reef for my next holiday,' and so it is really helping," Ms Harrison said.
"Seeing Australia through the eyes of somebody who is just discovering it new is always a great way to reignite your love for it as well."
Other NSW destinations that made the list include the Sydney Opera House sails as they beamed an image to thank local firefighters (3.2 million views), a video of a kangaroo scratching its chest at Coffs Coast (seen 2.5 million times) and bioluminescence at Jervis Bay (2.5 million views).
A video of a koala and joey cuddling at WILD Life Sydney Zoo (viewed 2 million times) and photos of rockpools at Macquarie Pass National Park (seen 1.8m times) also made the list.
On the Gold Coast, a video of a breaching whale (seen 1.9 million times) and a photo of a friendly kangaroo from North Stradbroke Island (seen 1.6 million times) also made the list.
In Victoria a photo of two penguins hugging made the list.
While South Australia did not make the top 10, popular destinations for them included a photo of Blowhole Beach on the Fleurieu Peninsula (1.34m views), Daly Head Beach on the
Yorke Peninsula (1.12 million views) and a koala at Mikkira Station in Port Lincoln (1.05 million views).
With many Australians having spent the better part of the year stuck indoors and in their home states, the opportunity to explore has never been greater.
"We see it as an incredible opportunity to have Australians fall in love with their own back yard again…," Ms Harrison said.
"We are a nation of travellers and we're always going to want to explore the world, and I don't think that will change, but I do think that for a period of time people are going to stay closer to home and they're going to have a renewed appreciation of what Australia has to offer."
For Harrison, who says her bucket list holidays are to swim with sea lions on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia and discover the many hidden wonders of Tasmania, she said Tourism Australia's most popular images also tells a bigger story about the year we've had and the year that's set to come.
"It really reflects what is resonating with people when they're dreaming, and the escapism that the promise of a holiday can offer us," she added.
TOURISM AUSTRALIA'S TOP TEN PHOTOS FOR 2020
Thank You Firefighters - Sydney Opera House, NSW (3.2 million views)
The jewel in Sydney's crown continues to be a mecca for international tourists - even with those stuck abroad during COVID-19 lockdown. The iconic venue's bars and restaurants are now reopened and its theatre's audience capacity will increase to 75 per cent on December 27.
Kangaroo Scratch - Coffs Coast, NSW (2.5 million views)
It's famed for its beaches and the Solitary Islands Marine Park, which is home to an abundant array of wildlife, coral reefs and a great spot to watch the whale migration. It is also home to some of the most-stunning coastal walks ranging from day trips to multi-day hikes.
Quokka and Joey - Rottnest Island, WA (2.5 million views)
The Island - which is a protected nature reserve - sits just offshore from the Western Australia capital of Perth. It is lined with white-sand beaches but is most-famous as the home of the Quokka, with about 12.000 of the animals living on Rottnest.
Bioluminescence - Jervis Bay, NSW (2.5 million views)
By day Jervis Bay is beautiful but by night even more so if you time your visit right to catch the bioluminescence which makes the waters glow in the dark. Scientists have found the best months to observe the phenomena is between May and August.
Hemsworth Holiday, Lord Howe Island, NSW (2.2 million views)
A tiny island in the Tasman Sea east of Port Macquarie which has gained international recognition thanks to Hollywood star Chris "Thor' Hemsworth. Lush with subtropical forests and clear blue waters, the island is home to less than 400 inhabitants.
Penguin Hug, St Kilda, Victoria (2.1 million views)
While fairy penguins are more commonly associated with Phillip Island, the little critters have also been spotted at the St Kilda breakwater since the 1970s, delighting tourists just after sunset, year round. Many breeds of penguin mate for life: a fact that the photographer of this image clearly knew about when they snapped this moment of cute penguin companionship.
Koala and Joey Cuddle, Sydney, NSW (2 million views)
Australia's native animals punch above their weight in the cuteness stakes, and none come cuter than the koala. It's been estimated that koalas alone could be worth $3.2 billion to the Australian tourism industry, and they're a big draw at all our top zoos, including WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo at Darling Harbour, where this mum and joey were snapped cuddling.
Rockpool Chills, Macquarie Pass National Park (1.8 million times)
Sitting between Wollongong and Kiama on the NSW south coast, Macquarie Pass National Park is a bushwalker's heaven, with towering trees, a colourful escarpement and abundant wildlife, including koalas, platypus, quolls and lyrebirds. Swimming holes are easily accessible and make for a perfect way to cool off after a bushwalk.
Whale Beach, Gold Coast, Queensland (1.9 million views)
In the early 1990s, it was estimated that the population of humpback whales migrating along Australia's east coast was down to just several hundred. It's now in excess of 33,000, and it has spawned its own industry of whale watching boats. While southern rights, minkes and even blue whales are spotted, humpbacks (such as this one breaching off the Gold Coast) are the most numerous.
Friendly kangaroo, North Stradbroke Island, Queensland (1.6 million times)
North Stradbroke Island - you can call it Straddie - has much to entice the visitor, whether they be camping, surfing, fishing, whale watching, Four Wheel Driving, or some combination of the above. Kangaroos and wallabies are frequently seen, and are even spotted on the beach dunes from time to time.
Blowhole Beach, Fleurieu Peninsula, SA (1.3 million views)
You don't have to go far out of Adelaide to see some spectacular scenery. The Fleurieu Peninsula starts just south of the City of Churches, and it's replete with wine regions, fine sandy beaches and cute towns. Blowhole Beach looks out towards Kangaroo Island - and the area boasts a few roos of its own.
Daly Head Beach, Yorke Peninsula, SA (1.1 million views)
You've heard of a room of one's own, but in South Australia there are plenty of places where you can have a beach of your own. Daly Head Beach is a national surf reserve, just three hours' drive from Adelaide, with excellent salmon fishing.
Originally published as 'Hemsworth effect' behind Australian tourism boom