Photo: Jacinda Ardern (right) with Kris Smith at Tamborine Mountain in Queensland. (Supplied: Kris Smith)
A surprise visit from New Zealand's Prime Minister to south-east Queensland could help the industry recover from a post-bushfire lull, tourism experts have said.
Jacinda Ardern, who has been holidaying with family in the region, posed for social media photos at a number of businesses at Tamborine Mountain and at Kingscliff, in northern New South Wales, over the past week.
Griffith Institute for Tourism director Sarah Gardiner said the popular politician's presence sent a strong international message.
"An important part of recovery after a major event is letting people know that destinations are open to visit," she said.
"This is really important in terms of the rebuilding and getting coming back to Australia again.
"Obviously she has got a huge following in New Zealand, and is a very popular Prime Minister, so I think it will get out there and people will think about the region as a place to visit.
"For the Tweed region particularly it is traditionally mostly a domestic tourism destination, and New Zealand only represents about 10 per cent of international visitors to the Tweed.
"It is an opportunity for that region in particular to really start to make some inroads into the New Zealand market."
Tourism slow since September
Businesses are reporting visitor numbers have not recovered since bushfires razed parts of the Gold Coast hinterland and Scenic Rim in September.
Ms Adern's visit to the region has buoyed hopes that tourists will return.
"When she walked into the shop on Friday I was completely star struck, I was shaking a little bit but she put me at ease," said Kris Smith, an employee at a North Tambourine cheese shop.
"I said to her 'am I seeing things?', and she said 'probably not'.
"There was absolutely nobody there when she came, it has been a complete downturn since the day the bushfires started."
High-profile visitors invaluable
Ms Ardern's visit was a morale boost for David Wistow, the co-manager of a winery at North Tamborine, which has been hit with the double-whammy of a visitor downturn at its hinterland restaurant and drought at its Stanthorpe vineyards.
"It has been a hard year," he said.
"It's extremely important now to get high-profile visitors. We have a lot to offer, but with the recent fires tourism has been in decline.
"It is nice for the public to see that the mountain is open for business and is looking green and beautiful, and any sort of advertisement like that goes a long way for businesses up here."