G’Day Toronto from the World of Oz 20 MAY 2009: While global tourism has its trials and tribulations in these turbulent times, a group of Aussie tourism-types arrived to show off some of their best culinary and vinifera products. And, to mix things up a bit, there was even an Emirates twist.

The Tourism Australia troops booked the Crush Wine Bar over in Toronto’s hip King Street West gastro hub. Among the Aussie entourage were Stefan Trofimovs, Australian consul-general and senior trade commissioner to Canada; Melissa Fransen, Australian High Commission’s first secretary; Daryl Hudson, Tourism Australia’s Country Manager for Canada; and Michelle Gysberts, Tourism Australia’s vice-president of The Americas.

Rubbing shoulders with them were Anita Stewart, Canada’s culinary darling who declared how Australia’s gastronomy is one of the many gifts to the world, and Canadian Living’s Elizabeth Baird who was seen sneaking photos of Indigenous chef Mark “Black” Olive embracing a plate of oven hot scones.

“He’s bigger than Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson,” was the buzz over glasses of DeBortoli Emeri Sparkling Shiraz and Skillogalee Riesling’s 2008 vintage available through select LCBO stores.

To: Anita Stewart. Bottom left: Chef Mark Olive, right: Jeff enjoying the wine

Chefs Mark Olive and Crush Wine Bar’s Michael Wilson dazzled the private party with an Aussie Damper “drunken traditional damper with eucalyptus-scented butter and Tasmanian leatherwood honey,” Wild Barramundi “oven-roasted wild barramundi, crowned with pickled ginger on a pineapple and mango lemon myrtle salsa,” and for the main draw, it was yes, Kangaroo. “Native herb encrusted kangaroo tail fillet roasted with baby carrots, blanched snow peas, merlot jus with creamy lemon oil and chardonnay vinegar served with sweet potato mash.”

Meanwhile sporting a safari-hat, Michael Smith, chef celeb and TV host, was flying high about his latest taping of his television show Chef Abroad on the Food Network which is set to feature Australian Indigenous cooking next February.

“I’ve learned to have new appreciation for lemon myrtle. Every time I saw Chef Mark Olive, he walks around with a suitcase of baggies holding the most unusual spices. I swear whenever I return now from a trip, the Custom officials pull me over to see what new spices I’m bringing back.” He said.

The Outback Café host who was raised in Bundjalung on the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, tapped into his inner culinary centre to extol the glories of kangaroo, possum, crocodile and wallabees. “Kangaroo lowers cholesterol, is good for you, and lowers glucose levels. It’s been tested in the last 10 to 15 years,” he explains and adds how possum is really an exciting meat. “Put a little bit of anise for the liquorice flavour.”

During the Come Walkabout Media lunch which had reps from Tourism New South Wales, Tourism Queensland, Voyages Hotels & Resorts, Tourism Tasmania and Wine Australia on hand manning their bar tables, I managed to get the scoop on a few of them.

Malcolm Griffiths, account director for Tourism Tasmania, says anytime is a good time to visit his destination but for really good weather (i.e. not when it’s blistering hot), fall through spring works best. In this region of half-a-million Tasmanians, the average stay is one week for Canadians. “It’s more of a vacation spot for second timers, repeat travellers to Australia,” he adds about the easy-to-drive destination.

So, what’s on Tasmania’s top must-see list? Try the Freycinet National Park, Cradle Mountain Lodge and great food and wine. “We have remarkable rieslings and pinots,” he jokes. No mention on the list of the all renowned Tazzie Devil so I nudged him a bit. “The poor Tazzie Devil is suffering from a tumour disease and if a vaccine isn’t found in the next 10 years, they will sadly be extinct,” he notes of the newly listed endangered species.

Remember “The Best Job in the World” contest? This sheer marketing genius dreamed up by the advertising agency folks of Tourism Queensland invited participants from around the world to submit online videos explaining why they should win the best job of island caretaker, looking after the islands of the Great Barrier Reef. “Absolutely successful. This was a viral idea, a viral campaign that overtook any expectations. We had 35,000 applicants and received over 100-million dollars in media. It really hit the mark,” explained Ben Fleming, market development manager for Tourism Queensland.

The big winner announced last week is Ben Southal. Curious-types can watch him start his world’s best job online when he officially starts on Canada Day, July 1 st. “He’s a Brit but his girlfriend is a Canadian,” whispered one insider. For those of you who missed the campaign you can

log onto www.islandreefjob.com.

Top:Mary Heron & Daryl Hudson. Centre: Cameron McCarthy, Michele Gysberts. Bottom: Michael Smith

The Emirates connection

In between the libations and an Indigenous performer executing the intricacies of the didgeridoo, the Arab connection finally surfaces. Mary Heron, Canadian manager for Emirates Airlines, noted that the first A380 in Canada will start services on June 1. “We’re promoting it as another way to get to Australia. Stop in Dubai for a couple of nights then carry on to Australia.”

Daryl Hudson, Tourism Australia’s country manager explains the Emirates connection further. “It’s one of the world’s greatest airlines. When people in Toronto think about Australia they think westbound but with Emirates Airlines they have a chance to go eastbound into Dubai, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.”

So the country affectionately known as the Land Down Under covets another message. “Think differently about Australia.”

And here’s a stat think about - 124,000 Canadian arrivals to Australia were reported for 2008. That’s a 9% increase over 2007.

Event photo credits: Stephen Smith


Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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