Sept. 13, 2010— -- Oprah Winfrey kicked off her final season today by announcing that she would fly her entire audience of "ultimate viewers" -- about 300 people in the studio today -- to Australia.
"I started to think about where would I most want to go. Maybe I should take all of you with me to the other side of the world ... We're going to Australia! We are going to Australia! You and you and you and you, are going to Australia!" the talk show queen said, sparking euphoric cheers, and even some tears, from the already keyed-up studio audience.
John Travolta, a pilot who works for Qantas as its ambassador-at-large was on the show for the surprise announcement.
While the lucky fans screamed and jumped with joy, the real winner here might be Tourism Australia and Qantas, which just received several minutes of key air time and the implicit endorsement of one of the world's best known personalities.
Winfrey has an extremely loyal fan base and whatever she touches tends to turn to gold. For instance, her book club list can easily turn an unknown novel into a bestseller.
"She's proven herself time and time again with everything from automobiles to cause marketing to books to talk shows with Dr. Oz," said Joseph Jaffe, who does marketing work with Powered and author of "Flip the Funnel". "I suppose this is from Dr. Oz to the real Oz," Jaffe said.
"Ultimately it's just smart marketing, leveraging the power of association," Jaffe added. "Whatever the actual cost is of the actual 300 tickets, that pails into obscurity when benchmarked into the buzz."
The fall is one of the cheapest times of year to fly to Australia according to Rick Seaney, CEO of airfare-search site FareCompare.com and an ABCNews.com columnist. He said a roundtrip ticket from Chicago, where Oprah tapes her show, would cost about $1,300 for travel in November-- or $400,000 for the entire audience.
"For a group of 300 people it's the perfect time of year to charter a jumbo jet," Seaney said.
That isn't cheap but for the country's tourism board who is apparently footing the bill, the publicity is worth it.
"The Oprah Winfrey show has a world-wide audience across 145 countries and we are delighted to partner with Tourism Australia on this amazing opportunity to showcase the best Australia has to offer," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in a statement.
Travolta got the gig with Qantas in June 2002 and on an interesting side note, his own Boeing 707 was once owned by the Australian airline.
A representative for Qantas, said the national airline is footing part of the bill for the trip. Qantas refused to say who else was paying for the giveaway.
The whole group will be traveling together but will be split over several flights instead of taking over one entire plane, she said.