The city of Melbourne hosted last month’s Australia Tourism Exchange. // © 2015 Shane Nelson
Feature image (above): Australia is planning a campaign focused on the island’s aquatic life. // © 2015 Shane Nelson
After more than a year of selling Australia as a destination where travelers can enjoy terrific food and wine, the nation’s tourism officials have decided to begin shifting gears later this year. Tourism Australia will be showcasing the country’s extraordinary coastal and aquatic experiences, including, of course, the Great Barrier Reef.
Tourism Australia rolled out the now-familiar Restaurant Australia campaign late last spring, and according to John O’Sullivan, the organization’s managing director, the marketing push has been quite a success.
“We’ve seen a dramatic improvement in Australia’s perception as a food and wine destination,” he said during last month’s Australia Tourism Exchange (ATE), which drew nearly 2,000 buyers, sellers and international media to Melbourne, Australia. “Also importantly, we’ve seen increased expenditure on our great food and wine experiences across the country.”
Tourism marketers down under haven’t given up on promoting the nation’s top-notch cuisine and wines, but they have decided it’s time to place renewed emphasis on what has long been seen as a competitive advantage — Australia’s stunning coastlines and aquatic offerings. During his media briefing at ATE, O’Sullivan presented Google data indicating that searches for Australian beaches and related aquatic terms are down 10 percent. At the same time, competitive destinations frequently outrank Australia on TripAdvisor’s top 10 lists of the world’s best islands, beaches and diving spots. In coming months, Australia intends to begin a campaign to remind the world just how special the nation’s aquatic experiences and coastal environments truly are.
“Restaurant Australia was about correcting a misconception,” O’Sullivan said. “This is unashamedly about playing to a natural strength and a competitive advantage that the country has internationally.”
Australia saw its U.S. tourism arrivals grow nearly 7 percent year over year to just under 300,000 visitors through end of May 2015. The results were bolstered in part by Tourism Australia’s Restaurant Australia campaign and the recent Australia Someday marketing partnership, launched with Virgin Australia, according to O’Sullivan.
“What drives international visitation out of source markets is consumer confidence,” he added. “In North America and the U.S., we’ve seen [an improvement in] employment [rates], and so we’ve seen increased consumer confidence. There is also an abundance of aviation capacity, and we are a market that North Americans, and in particular those in the U.S., are very familiar with.”
O’Sullivan announced a new five-year, $50 million international marketing partnership with Virgin Airlines at ATE, saying the deal was the largest in Tourism Australia’s history. Meanwhile, Virgin Australia is rolling out new product on its U.S.-Australia Boeing 777 routes later this year, including a new Premium Economy offering this November with more legroom; plated meal service; anytime access to a self-service food and beverage larder; and priority check-in and boarding benefits. The airline will also launch new international Business Class suites on its Boeing 777 fleet toward the end of this year.
“It is all about size,” Mark Hassell, Virgin Australia’s chief customer officer, said of the carrier’s new Business suites. “It does matter, so we really thought through how we want to give guests the most space. Against our major competitor, we offer the biggest bed, with the most width, and with the largest [in-flight entertainment] screen.”
Tourism Australia is also putting the finishing touches on a dramatic overhaul to its Aussie Specialist Program and will release a completely overhauled digital platform in August.
“It’s a platform that is device agnostic, so you can use it on your mobile, your tablet or your desktop,” O’Sullivan said. “It will have 11 translated languages, and very importantly, it’s very visual and interactive. It will allow agents to design itineraries, and it will also show them in very simplistic terms how far it is between destinations.”
O’Sullivan encouraged even longtime Aussie Specialists to recertify, noting that the overhaul includes a great deal of updated content on the new website’s interactive training and education modules, which cover the latest industry news.
“Our content is changing all the time,” he explained. “We’ve got 90 new sellers [at ATE] this year, and they are catering to the changing tastes of consumers. We’re seeing people move toward far more experience-based products. So, our agents have to keep up with that. This site will provide them with the modules to help them do so.”
According to Tourism Australia, there are currently 18,000 qualified Aussie Specialists worldwide.