John O’Sullivan, managing director for Tourism Australia // © 2015 Tourism Australia
Feature image (above): Australia saw a 137 percent growth in year-over-year bookings from the U.S. // © 2015 Tourism Australia
In August, luxury travel agent consortium Virtuoso inked a new partnership agreement with Tourism Australia, a deal aimed at strengthening ties between the international luxury market and Australia’s growing range of luxury travel products.
The arrangement, announced during the annual Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas, will include both a digital and print marketing campaign focused on trade engagement and agent training.
“Australia is [one of the top] destinations for our U.S. market, with an impressive 137 percent growth in year-over-year bookings from our network of luxury travel agencies across the U.S.,” said Matthew D. Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso. “Americans love Australia — the wide-open spaces, great beaches, amazing wildlife, food and that famous Aussie spirit. This agreement, and the marketing and education elements that go with it, will help Virtuoso members really understand the Australian product in order to sell great holidays to their high-net-worth clients.”
In the past year, the U.S. market has posted record-breaking tourism figures Down Under, according to John O’Sullivan, managing director for Tourism Australia.
“We’ve had almost 600,000 U.S. visitors who’ve spent close to $3 billion in Australia in the last year,” he said. “That’s a 14 percent increase in spend, so it’s a very valuable market for us and growing fast.”
In August, Tourism Australia also launched an overhauled version of its Aussie Specialist online training program for travel advisors, enhancing ease of use and adding more interactive tools for agents, along with a range of new content.
According to Jane Whitehead, regional general manager for the Americas for Tourism Australia, about 1,100 U.S. travel agents were registered Aussie Specialists earlier this summer, but she hopes the recent online training portal upgrade will help double that figure moving forward.
Whitehead also noted that Tourism Australia’s partnership with Virtuoso means agents will have access to a new series of Australia web modules designed specifically for the consortium’s Learning Engagement Advisor Program (LEAP) training. Starting in September and running through June 2016, the module will provide webinars once per month that showcase new tools, content and resources for agents. Travel advisors can access the Australia LEAP webinar series at Virtuoso Travel Academy.
“For us, it’s really about finding the best way to engage agents,” Whitehead said. “We would like to bring everyone into the Aussie Specialists program, but we realize there are a lot of people who are selling vacations to Australia who aren’t Aussie Specialist, per se, in terms of being members of our program. So we want to really reach them where they want to train. That’s the goal of the consortia partnerships: accessing their training platforms, as well, and making sure we’re supporting those with strong Australia content.”
Whitehead added that Tourism Australia will soon be hiring three new team members, to be based in the U.S., who will focus on face-to-face training for agents across the country.
“The face-to-face training opportunities are also really, really important,” she said.
Two members will be brought on in Los Angeles, while another will be based on the East Coast.