The tourism industry is confident a new advertising campaign, riding on the back of the epic film Australia, will greatly boost international visitor numbers.

Federal Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson today officially launched the $50 million campaign created by Australia director Baz Luhrmann, replacing the controversial promotion which touted for tourists with the line Where the Bloody Hell Are You?

The new campaign centres around two TV ads, one set in Shanghai and the other in New York, featuring a young Aboriginal boy inviting a stressed city worker to come “walkabout” in remote parts of Australia.

The idea is based on the idea of Nicole Kidman’s character in Luhrmann’s film, Lady Sarah Ashley, who finds herself when she comes to Australia.

Ads will also appear in newspapers, online and TV.

They will run from Wednesday until the middle of next year in 22 countries, about half of which are in Asia, with a big focus on Japan, the US and the UK.

Tourism & Transport Forum managing director Christopher Brown said he was confident it would boost the industry, following a drop of 4.7 per cent in overseas visitors in 2007-2008.

“With traditional markets such as Japan in decline, and the UK and US economies in recession, we need to focus on markets such as China and India,” he said.

“Realising these opportunities will involve developing tourism experiences that will cut through in those countries and supporting them with compelling advertising campaigns.

“Baz Luhrmann has supplied the second part of the equation. It’s up to government and industry to deliver the first.”

Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) managing director Matthew Hingerty also gave the thumbs up to the ads.

“The global travel industry is heading into a particularly challenging environment with the financial crisis putting pressure on individual and corporate travel budgets,” Mr Hingerty said.

“Yet amidst all the gloom, people will still need to take time out to refresh themselves and catch their breath before plunging back into the fray.”

Ferguson said they had learnt from the “pluses and minuses” of the previous campaign featuring model Lara Bingle and were taking a “fresh approach”, by piggybacking on publicity surrounding the film Australia.

He said Australian tourism had done it “hard” recently.

“In tough times you’ve got to take a risk,” Ferguson said.

“You’ve got to think about something different to promote Australia.”

Tourism Australia managing director Geoff Buckley said the ads would appeal to visitors’ emotions, adding it had not been decided whether to run them in Australia.

“We think it will remind people why holidays are important and that an Australian holiday will give them an experience that will change them, change their lives,” he said.

Luhrmann said the advertisements worked well alongside the movie, due for release on November 26.

“Lots and lots of money was going to be spent by our financier to promote this film and the fact is we share a brand, we share a name,” he said.

The ads were shot entirely in Australia.