March 25, 2009
The last time a bid to boost Australian tourism generated a storm of international attention, it needed a London advertising firm, a $125 million campaign and a bikini-clad socialite asking potential visitors: "So where the bloody hell are you?"
This time, it just took Tiger Woods.
Woods' invitation to November's Australian Masters, for which he will receive a guaranteed $3 million appearance fee – half reportedly will be funded by the taxpayers of the state of Victoria – has got politicians in Oz hopping mad.
Leading the charge is Ted Baillieu, leader of the opposition Liberal party and a man prone to hooking wildly into the political rough.
Not satisfied with the strong likelihood his party will miss the cut at the next Victorian election (Baillieu's approval rating sits at 22 percent), good ol' Ted has decided that taking a few potshots as the world's finest golfer is a sure-fire winner.
"At a time like this, when people are losing their jobs, it's hard to believe that the Victorian public would think that this is a good idea," Baillieu said. "When there is concern about high levels of executive salary, the government's spending $1.5 million on the highest paid sportsman in the world to come here for a tournament which is not an international tournament."
The sentiment is fine, but there sadly seems to be little sensible thought behind it. Sure, the prospect of a multimillionaire lining his pockets even further in tough economic times doesn't gladden the hearts of the fiscally stricken. But it's missing the point. Getting Tiger to Australia isn't about making him even more money. It is about generating a social and golfing boost for Victoria and its citizens.
The Labor-party government, which authorized the spending, says more than $13 million will be generated in extra tourism benefits. And even conservative independent estimates reckon on at least $8 million.
But there are clearly a few people who struggle with that kind of math. Should we be surprised? Remember that this is a country that spent $125 million on asking foreigners to confirm their location.
Stick another couple of million onto his appearance check, and Tiger will probably suit up in front of the camera to head the campaign. Just imagine.
"Welcome to Australia, where getting $13 million in exchange for $2 million is considered a bad deal. Where the bloody hell am I?"
Now that's tourism.Photo courtesy of Getty Images