Did Oprah Help Australia Tourism?

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Oprah Winfrey, queen of the talk show circuit, may be able to add Australian tourism booster to her famed accomplishments.

Some tourism officials down under think so, tentatively giving credit to her for an increase in tourism after Winfrey's highly publicized visit to Australia last December, along with 302 "ultimate fans," was aired on television in late-January, reports the Courier-Mail.

The Brisbane Airport Corporation's Rebecca Masci said, "The increase in visitors from the U.S. 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."

For the first time since June 2010, the number of U.S. inbound passengers increased in January and February, with almost 10,000 entering Brisbane International Airport. The modest growth of 1.1% per month was in contrast to falls at Sydney and Melbourne airports of 0.2 % and 0.5%, the Australian news outlet reported.

The four-show special premiered shortly after the devastating Queensland floods. Oprah featured Cairns, Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays and Hamilton Island and had Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe as guests, and she even cuddled a koala bear.

"I totally expect Oprah's promotion of Australia to have a significant impact on visitor numbers from the U.S. and given that it's already showing signs of improvement, that puts us in a strong position," said Daniel Gschwind from the Queensland Tourism Industry Council.

He said Oprah's popular show was the "most effective word of mouth" imaginable.

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