By Lilit Marcus, CNN
In the past five years, the Australian town of Cowra has been hit by droughts, Covid and even a mouse plague.
So when it came to bringing tourists back to this sunny piece of New South Wales, Cowra Tourism manager Glenn Daley knew it was going to take something massive. Or maybe someone massive.
That’s when he came up with the idea to reach out to actor Chris Hemsworth, who is Australia’s national celebrity tourism ambassador and regularly shares snapshots of himself traveling around Oz on Instagram.
The result was #GetChristoCowra, an ad campaign backed by the local tourism council and fully embraced by Cowra’s residents. In the ad’s video, Cowra locals (some actual citizens, some actors) dress up in Thor costumes, hold up signs and even make plans to build a giant four-story-high statue of the Aussie movie star.
Daley, who grew up on his family farm in Cowra and moved back a few years ago, admits that the campaign was intended to be tongue-in-cheek. But he was touched by how many locals got involved.
“I didn’t realize how much the town needs a boost,” he says. “Everyone is getting on board.”
Though the campaign ad was filmed in June, Daley and his team couldn’t release it until local lockdowns had ended and travel was beginning to reopen.
“We’ve been busting ourselves to keep it in,” he admits.
The secret-keeping paid off. The campaign video was released to Australian media last week and immediately started gaining traction online and on TV.
But the biggest “win” of all came via Hemsworth himself, who shared the video on his Instagram this week.
“Big love to all the folks in Cowra for this amazing campaign, warmed my heart and made me smile!” he wrote. “I’m off shooting a film overseas soon but upon return next year I’m comin in hot!!”
Hemsworth was born in Melbourne and moved his family from Los Angeles back to Australia a few years ago. He signed on as Australia’s tourism ambassador in 2018 with a splashy “Crocodile Dundee”-themed ad that debuted during the Super Bowl.
“I missed Australia. I missed the people. I missed the coastline,” he told CNN at the time.
The “Get Chris to Cowra” website also contains an in-joke referencing one of Australia’s most iconic tourism campaigns.
The page header quote “Where the bloody hell is he?” references a 2006 Tourism Australia campaign titled “So where the bloody hell are you?”
Although the campaign was banned in the UK — where “bloody” is not necessarily a word that can be uttered in mixed company — the commercial became famous around the world.
The slogan was the brainchild of Scott Morrison, who was managing director of Tourism Australia at the time. He is now the country’s prime minister.
Whether Hemsworth makes it to Cowra in 2022 or not, Daley is amazed by how far the tourism campaign has spread.
“It has put Cowra on the map internationally, which is phenomenal for a tiny town.”
Travelers who are able to make it to Cowra — about two hours by car from Canberra and four from Sydney — can enjoy Japanese-style gardens, an art gallery with both contemporary and Indigenous work and a Festival of International Understanding, which is held every spring.
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