Melbourne's remote-controlled tourists

Every piece of Tourism Victoria's innovative "jigsaw" commercials was so successful they were widely mimicked by other states.

Now the body behind what's claimed to be the world's longest-running tourism campaign is switching to remote-control in its latest Melbourne marketing campaign.

Tourism Victoria has launched a A$3.6 million ($4.09 million) "virtual tourist experience", part of its "Play Melbourne" campaign.

It's dubbed the Remote Control Tourist, which, speaking of jigsaws, claims to be a first in vicarious tourism and one that may well puzzle those still not entirely conversant with social media.

The campaign's objective is to attract the interest of digital-savvy young "opinion leaders" in key interstate markets such as Sydney to take a holiday in the Victorian capital renowned for its lashings of culture, coffee and cool.

In the new "go before you go" campaign, with goes live at 10am Wednesday, a quartet of young bicycle-pedalling so-called Remote Control Tourists - two males and two females with helmets fitted with video cameras - will be at the disposal of social media devotees for whom Twitter and Facebook are second homes.

They'll be able to deploy, via social media, the Remote Control Tourists to Melbourne's tourism delights, such as its laneways, bars and cafes, before actually committing to visiting the city.

The Remote Control Tourists' territory will be bounded by an area covering trendy, tourist-friendly inner suburbs such as Collingwood, Fitzroy, Prahran and Carlton.

Footage streamed live of the exploits of the Remote Control Tourists on will be beamed in real time to tablets, mobiles and laptops.

The Remote Control Tourists will be available between 10am and 8pm (midday to 10pm NZT) each day until October 13.

Their video cameras have even been tested for night vision in the event they need to shoot inside the city's signature murky laneway bars.

"This world-first campaign is all about giving people new reasons to come and visit the latest and greatest our city has to offer by introducing it them virtually first," said Louise Asher, Victoria's Minister for Tourism and Major Events.

"We want to spark curiosity and encourage people to tap into their sense of discovery."

Social media is increasingly important in the promotion of domestic and international tourism with taxpayer-funded tourism bodies spending millions to inspire Twitter and Facebook fans to visit their destinations.

Tourism Australia alone now has nearly 5 million Facebook followers around the world.

Tourism Victoria's more conventional television and print-drive promotional campaigns and major events over the past decade, including the jigsaw campaign launched in 1993, have been so successful that Melbourne is now Australia's most popular destination, surpassing even Sydney, Australia's traditional tourism gateway, and the Gold Coast in terms of total visitor nights.

Domestic overnight visitors in Melbourne was A22.2 million, up 16.4 per cent on the previous year. Domestic overnight visitor expenditure was A$5.9 billion, up 2.8 per cent on the previous year (Year ending June 30, 2013).

Tourism Victoria also announced yesterday that it had a A$12 million agreement with Qantas to market Victoria as a holiday destination internationally and domestically.

The deal is a result of Qantas's split with Tourism Australia following a major rift last year between the airline's boss, Alan Joyce and the marketing body's chairman, Geoff Dixon.

Asher said: "Qantas' status as one of Australia's most iconic brands and its exceptional visibility to international consumers is well aligned with Victoria's destination marketing strategy.

This highlights Melbourne as a vibrant cosmopolitan city which offers outstanding tourism experiences."

Sydney Morning Herald