Jane Whitehead, Tourism Australia’s vice president and regional manager for the Americas, with Richard Tognetti, leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra at the annual Australia Tourism Summit in Pasadena, Calif. // © 2015 Tourism Australia
Feature image (above): Kangaroo Island is one of many popular destinations in Australia ideal for the affluent traveler. // © 2016 Tourism Australia
The fourth annual Australia Tourism Summit, held at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena, Los Angeles on February 22-23, brought together some 280 travel industry partners, suppliers, travel agents and media to discuss the destination and travel trends.
Following Monday evening’s opening reception and dinner, which included a performance by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, day two opened with a welcome address by Tony South, chairman of Tourism Australia (TA). South shared TA’s goal of increasing overnight visitor expenditure to 115 billion Australian dollars by 2020. To achieve this, TA hopes to see an increase of 5.5 billion Australian dollars in U.S. visitor spend.
According to TA’s international tourism snapshot from Dec. 31, 2015, Americans make up the fourth-largest market in terms of overnight visitors, with a year-over-year increase of 10 percent. At the same time, international visitors grew by 8 percent, from 6.9 million to 7.4 million.
During the summit, a prevalent topic was the affluent traveler, with speakers from Visa, Ipsos Media and Australia local operator Exceptional Kangaroo Island each contributing to the conversation.
Shiv Singh, senior vice president and global head of digital and marketing transformation for Visa, discussed luxury consumers in his presentation, noting the projected growth of disposable income in the U.S., the generally intact state of consumer confidence and an increased consumer assurance in peer-to-peer platforms, which is applicable to both luxury and nonluxury travelers. Singh remarked that the oft-mentioned predisposition of placing trust in an individual over a large corporation is no longer unique to millennials alone. In fact, many Gen Xers and baby boomers have become what Singh calls “closet millennials” — individuals who take selfies, frequently utilize social media and possess similar demands of authenticity and community.
After taking the stage, Stephen Kraus, senior vice president and chief insights officer of Ipsos Media, helped define the typical affluent traveler using data from a survey of about 15,000 people. These individuals are among the country’s top 20 percent in household income, making at least $100,000 per household. According to Kraus, in 2015, 70 percent of affluent travelers indicated an emotional change in and prioritized investing in leisure and other spare-time activities, which includes travel — a 10 percent increase from the year before.
Kraus also mentioned millennials and how they account for about one-fourth of the affluent population. He described Australia as a fantastic fit for millennial travelers, who crave experiential and adventure travel and who are more likely to be undeterred by long-haul flights. Travel agents were also mentioned: Affluent millennials are less interested in keywords such as “prestige” and “status” when it comes to travel, but want one-of-a-kind insider access — which can be achieved through hiring a travel advisor.
Craig Wickham, owner and CEO of small-group and private-tour operator Exceptional Kangaroo Island, also attested to Australia’s ideal positioning as an experiential destination, especially for affluent travelers. Like the speakers before him, Wickham dismissed traditional luxury for an evolved luxury revolving around acquisition of experiences rather than things.
“It's about getting access to places you might not otherwise have, but in manner that's sustainable, yet very comfortable,” he said.
Wickham added that Exceptional Kangaroo Island leverages relationships with not only guides and locals, but the island’s wildlife, too, promoting a high-quality, immersive experience.
Jane Whitehead, TA’s vice president and regional manager for the Americas, said that travel agents can better sell Australia simply by being as informed as possible.
“Good agents know their clients,” she said. “And for us, it’s really about how we can help the agents easily stay informed about what Australia has to offer and what matches their clients.”
According to Whitehead, one such concentrated effort by TA is its Aussie Specialist Program, an online training database for travel agents that was relaunched in 2015 to become more interactive. The program provides everything from event information to webinars and training opportunities.