It looks as though the Oprah effect is beginning to be felt by Australia's tourism industry.
Tourism Australia (TA) boss Andrew McEvoy says while it's a bit early to start popping the champagne corks, new research and feedback from the industry suggests US talk show queen Oprah Winfrey's foray down under in December is starting to pay dividends.
Mr McEvoy, who is attending the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) in Sydney this week, said online travel agency Orbitz, a key partner in TA's Great Aussie Sale promotion which ran in the United States alongside the Oprah show's airing, has reported an increase in bookings.
"Orbitz figures for January and February 2011 compared with the same period last year, revealed that revenue from flight and hotel bookings has risen 9.65 per cent and 13.6 per cent respectively," he said in a daily online newsletter to ATE delegates.
"Separately a consumer research poll of 1200 Americans, 1000 Oprah viewers and 200 non Oprah viewers, revealed 61 per cent of respondents who were aware of Oprah's Australian shows had already explored travel options to Australia.
"And 74 per cent of those who were aware of the shows agreed that Australia is worth travelling to."
Other commercial partners involved in campaign activity around the shows have also reported spikes in holiday bookings.
Mr McEvoy said Flight Centre/Liberty Travel had seen flight bookings so far in 2011 increase by 108 per cent compared with 2010.
US boutique travel group, Signature Travel, has reported a 52 per cent increase in Australian bookings for February 2011 compared with last year, while visits to TA's website, www.australia.com during January and February were nearly double the monthly average.
"The four Oprah shows began re-airing in the US from March 24, kick-starting another big marketing push by Tourism Australia, including phase two of the Great Aussie Sale as well as airline partnerships with V Australia and Delta.
"Since its announcement in September 2010, Oprah's visit to Australia has generated more than 86,000 media articles across the world, with an estimated equivalent advertising value of $368 million," he said.
Tourism Australia believes the US market has the potential to grow to between 760,000 and 840,000 visitors, contributing between $4.5 billion and $5.5 billion in overnight expenditure by 2020
Around 700 international travel delegates from 40 countries are meeting with 1700 tourism operators from across the country at the ATE in Sydney this week.
"ATE is the most important event on the Australian tourism industry calendar, and we estimate it will immediately inject more than $10 million into the local economy, but many millions more longer term," Mr McEvoy said.