BRISBANE, Australia – Oprah Winfrey's heavily publicized trip to Australia has been credited with bringing more American tourists to the disaster-ravaged state of Queensland, The Courier-Mail reported Wednesday.
For the first time since June 2010, the number of US inbound passengers increased in January and February, with almost 10,000 entering Queensland's Brisbane International Airport.
The modest growth of 1.1 percent each month was in contrast to falls at airports in Australia's other major cities of Sydney, New South Wales, and Melbourne, Victoria, of 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent.
The Brisbane Airport Corporation's Rebecca Masci said it was encouraging to see the US market making a comeback.
"The increase in visitors from the US is potentially related to Oprah's promotion of the region, and is a positive sign that international guests are receiving the message that Queensland is open and ready for business," Masci said.
The talk show queen traveled to Australia last December, accompanied by 302 "ultimate fans," visiting the north Queensland tourist destinations of Cairns, Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays and Hamilton Island.
The programs aired in late-January, shortly after floods devastated Queensland.
Daniel Gschwind from the Queensland Tourism Industry Council said it may be too early to attribute any improvement to the "Oprah effect," but the positive growth was welcomed.
"I totally expect Oprah's promotion of Australia to have a significant impact on visitor numbers from the US and given that it's already showing signs of improvement, that puts us in a strong position," he said.
He said Winfrey's popular show was the "most effective word of mouth" imaginable.
"Oprah is the ultimate distribution model. She speaks to millions of people and most importantly, millions of people listen to what she has to say."