Melbourne, Jan 17 (ANI): Chinese tennis sensation Li Na's success in Australia has drawn so many Chinese visitors to the country, that tourism officials are calling her "more valuable than Oprah".
Australian Open officials confirmed that the fifth seed has been the driving force behind a 30 per cent rise in ticket sales to China this year.
She has also played a significant role in a 400 per cent rise in visitors from the Asia-Pacific since 2004.
The 29-year-old made a historic first grand slam final appearance by a Chinese player at the Australian Open last year, generating a frenzy in her home country, before she won the French Open.
Tourism and Transport Forum boss John Lee said the increase in Chinese visitors coming to watch Li in Australia this year was already benefiting tourism.
"The Chinese fans are not only visiting Melbourne and its surrounds... They will visit Sydney, the Barrier Reef and Uluru," the Herald Sun quoted Lee as saying.
He said the bubbly Li was among the biggest factors influencing Chinese tourism to Australia.
"She's made a successful start to 2012, and if that continues Li could be more valuable to Australian tourism than Oprah," he said.
"Li is one of the most recognised people in China and she spends a considerable amount of time in Australia every year," he added.
Tennis Australia promoted the Open heavily in China last year, with local celebrities such as the country's Miss Universe entrant Luo Zilin and pop star Li Xiaoyun helping generate more media coverage.
"About 53 million Chinese left their country on a holiday last year," Lee said.
"Of those, 500,000 came to Australia. That number could double in five years, helped by the Li factor," he said.
Lee said he hoped the tennis star, whose career earnings top 7 million dollars, would win this year 'for the free publicity it would give Australia'. (ANI)
Read More: UNODC | UNAIDS | UNESCO | UNHCR | UNICEF | UNIDO | United Nations Volunteers | UNIFEM | WFP | World Bank | UNIC | French Guiana | French Polynesia | Australia | China | Transport Yard So | Ycm Open Univesity So | China Nandigama | China Garlapadu | China Dhab | Barri