July 21, 2024

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Bluey on Disney+ Is Changing American Tourism in Australia

Since September 2023, American viewers have spent nearly 33 billion minutes watching Bluey. This is especially impressive given that episodes of the Australian children’s show—the second most streamed television series of 2023—typically run just 10 minutes. 

Bluey centers around a family of dogs named the Heelers who live in Brisbane, Australia. The titular character, Bluey, lives with her sister Bingo, her mom Chili, and her dad Bandit. While each episode may be short, i doesn’t take viewers long to get a real (albeit cartoon) sense of Queensland, the Australian state where Brisbane is located.

These animated stories are now creating a somewhat unprecedented interest in family travel to Queensland, according to Trish O’Callaghan, the CEO of Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ).

“What we love is Bluey is very much inspired by the quintessential Queensland lifestyle and living,” O’Callaghan says in an interview with Thrillist. “Throughout the show you can see our home of Brisbane and all these beautiful iconic landmarks that are constantly coming up.”

Crystal clear waters for snorkelling, boating or diving off Brisbane at the island of Moreton.Crystal clear waters for snorkelling, boating or diving off Brisbane at the island of Moreton.
The island of Moreton, off the coast of Brisbane.

Queensland has been quick to capitalize on the show’s global popularity. Tourists and locals alike will soon be able to enjoy “Bluey’s World,” the new immersive experience coming to Brisbane in November 2024, which will feature life-sized sets of Bluey’s home, as well as interactive play areas in a 13,000 square foot space.

But the massive recreation of Bluey’s home isn’t the only location that allows Bluey fan travelers to have the total Bluey experience. Apart from the talking dogs, the show paints a pretty realistic picture of Brisbane and Queensland more broadly, which lends itself to fairly easy itinerary-building. The official Bluey show website has a comprehensive map of locations featured in the show: there’s Peregian Beach, where the family goes surfing; the town Currimundi, where the Heelers go on vacation; and the town of Longreach, where Bandit ventures to for a work trip.

Even before TEQ’s big push to attract families with Bluey, the show was already a draw for tourists visiting Brisbane with their children. Nichola Gwon, who runs the blog My Korean Husband, lives in Korea with her husband and two children, ages two and five, but hails from Australia. On a recent trip to visit family, she penciled in a special Bluey-themed vacation for her children.

“I was taking both kids on a trip to Australia to see family and also to experience Australia and it seemed like a great opportunity to make sure we do many things they had seen in Bluey episodes,” Gwon says. “I checked through all the Bluey episodes and made a list of things we could do, like the beach and going to Bunnings.”

Because Gwon is from Australia, she had an insider’s knowledge when her children watched the show, and was able to easily identify certain popular locations in the show. “I knew beaches in coastal towns would be less crowded than city beaches,” she says. “I knew Hammerbarn references the hardware store Bunnings in Australia (it literally has a hammer on it). I knew there would be fruit bats in my parents town and that my kids could experience the taking bins out and the rubbish truck.”

Getting from Korea to Australia takes between 10 and 12 hours—a long journey for anyone, but especially families with young children. But with Bluey’s World, TEQ is hoping to make an even more ambitious journey appealing to young families. The new attraction is part of a strategy to draw in a dramatic increase in tourism in the next year from four key international markets: New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, and the US. The growth of the US market is particularly ambitious.

“We’re looking at an additional 1.3 million visitors by June, 2025,” Laura Jones, Director of Marketing Services at TEQ, explains. “It’s a substantial target. Bluey’s World is one component of that. What it’s really giving us the opportunities to do, is reach the family traveler—we’ve never done that before.”

There are early signs of success for the plan. After just one week into the Bluey tourism campaign from TEQ in June 2024, O’Callaghan says that the agency saw a massive spike in global interest in visiting Queensland. When the Bluey’s World tourism campaign was announced, more than 2,000 news stories around the globe were published, and 130,000 people visited the campaign website.

A photo of the animated show Bluey, featuring Bluey, Bingo, Chili, and Bandit. A photo of the animated show Bluey, featuring Bluey, Bingo, Chili, and Bandit.
Courtesy of Disney+

Getting more American families to fly between 10 and 19 hours to the other side of the world isn’t going to be easy. It’s a long, pricey journey, and there are countless theme parks with wide appeal that are much closer to home and don’t require a passport to get to. A decade ago, such a campaign targeting young families in the US would have been unthinkable.

But Bluey is changing things.

“Australia, based on distance and traveling with little ones, has seemed maybe not achievable. But, what Bluey has done is broken that down a bit and given that additional push to travel,” Jones explained.

For Gwon and her family, there are already plans in place to return to Australia for a Brisbane-centric Bluey-inspired vacation. “In the future we plan to go to Brisbane and do an even better Bluey trip,” Gwon says. “Our previous trip showed my kids many Australian cultural aspects to my kids, in the future we will plan a trip to recognizable places in Brisbane. For other visitors wanting an Australian experience inspired by Bluey, they don’t have to only go to Brisbane, most Australian states are going to have experiences recognizable to Bluey fans.”

For those without local knowledge, there’s even an Instagram account, @Bluey_Locations, which shares screenshots from the show and their real life locations (or a best approximation).

Some of these locations shown on the show won’t be very exciting attractions, admittedly. The random highways and shopping mall escalators might not be traditional stops on any family trip. But anyone with Bluey fans in the house knows the kind of fervent fandom the show creates—and that even a pile of dirt could be exciting to young viewers.

Families that make the trek to Brisbane will at least be rewarded with bits from Bluey as soon as they land; the airport is where Bluey’s mom works, after all.  

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Journalism from NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She’s worked in digital media for eight years, and before working at Thrillist, she wrote for Mic, The Cut, The Fader, Vice, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.