ATE 2008

Perth hosts Australia’s premier tourism trade event

By: By Dawna L. Robertson

 Aboriginal Australia Showcase // (c) 2008
Aboriginal Australia Showcase
Following a stellar week of meetings and events that showcased the Land Down Under on a global center stage, the Australian Tourism Exchange 2008 (ATE08) concluded with an optimistic outlook for the travel industry despite turbulent times.

Australia’s tourism industry will no doubt see the positive impact from merging 630 exhibitors with 600 overseas wholesalers at the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre. Held June 17–20, the four-day Western Module catered to buyers from the Americas, Europe, Africa, New Zealand and the South Pacific. The Eastern Module took place from June 14-16.

Complementing the trade show was a comprehensive program of luncheons, happy hours and evening functions that enhanced networking opportunities. The largest, An Evening on the Green, was hosted at South Perth’s St. James Mitchell Park as both a farewell to Eastern attendees and a welcome to those from the West.

This year’s show focused on two major themes - Sustainable ATE and Aboriginal Australia. Yet, the big buzz was on the premier of “Australia,” Baz Luhrmann’s romantic action adventure starring Aussies Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Opening Nov. 13 in Australia, the film will eventually be released in 70 countries.

“It is not often you see an epic film with your own brand in the title,” said Geoff Buckley, Tourism Australia (TA) Managing Director. “It will basically be a two-and-a-half-hour advertisement for Australia. I don’t think we could get any better product placement!”

Anticipating hefty mileage from a $100 million marketing commitment from Twentieth Century Fox, Buckley noted that the country would leverage its exposure from the movie’s release through a multi-faceted “See the Movie, See the Country” tourism campaign.

Key Themes

Stressing sustainability, ATE08 introduced measures to offset the event’s environmental footprint. Delegate manuals were distributed digitally, invitations were e-mailed and press releases were provided online. Sellers were also encouraged to produce marketing materials online or on memory sticks.

Making its debut at ATE08, the Aboriginal Australia Showcase grabbed the spotlight with interactive stands encouraging delegates to share the country’s indigenous culture via art, crafts, dance, music and story telling.

Aden Ridgeway, Executive Chairman of Indigenous Tourism Australia, noted that the Aboriginal Australia experience enables the country to create a new identity beyond sun, surf and prawns on the barbie.

“Aboriginal Tourism is vitally important for our indigenous communities across the country, giving us the opportunity to employ and train people, and revive indigenous culture by sharing our stories,” Ridgeway said.

Global Challenges

A trio of press conferences by TA, Qantas Group and Tourism Western Australia revealed one universal message. While the next 12 months will be especially challenging, Australia’s travel industry is well prepared to face global uncertainty.

“We have some strong opportunities to meet the uncertainty created by increasing fuel prices and the strong Australian dollar,” said Buckley. “Our ‘experiences’, particularly Aboriginal Australia, give us the chance to promote something very unique.”

TA projected another year of modest growth for international tourism. “Across most of Australia’s key source markets we are seeing strong indications for modest rises in visitor numbers during 2008, but with some markets posting better results than others,” Buckley said.

USA visitor counts for February rose 14 percent compared to the same month last year despite the current economic downturn and continuing high exchange rates. “Aviation developments, including larger aircraft and increases in services, are expected to spur further growth from the market later this year,” Buckley said.

On Oct. 20, Qantas will inaugurate its increased-capacity A380 service on select flights from Los Angeles to Sydney and Melbourne. The carrier currently operates 47 weekly flights from the Western US and Honolulu to Australia. And in December, Virgin Blue’s V Australia will launch 10 flights weekly from Los Angeles to Sydney.

Holding the line should be the luxury segment, as indicated by an April survey of more than 2,000 frequent travelers conducted by Travel + Leisure. Higher income consumers continue to plan leisure travel over the next 12 months, and their pending plans generally pan out.

Michelle Gysberts, TA’s Vice President – The Americas, pointed out that over three million US West Coast residents take a vacation each year to long haul destinations. While affluent, they are typically “time poor” and travel for no more than a week on any one vacation.

These travelers, according to Gysberts, share the common misperception that Australia is further away than European destinations. “Americans generally think nothing of jumping on a flight to Europe to spend their annual week’s vacation, yet the flight time to Australia is practically the same,” she said.

Gysberts added that TA is currently working with its industry partners to create a series of seven-night packages from as little as $1,699 – often making Australia a better value than many other international destinations. Itineraries are available on a specially developed campaign microsite at

In another industry infusion, Disney has added Australia as a destination for its guided family vacations. Designed to attract a new wave of adventure seekers, the expansion of tours by Adventures by Disney is expected to deliver a significant boost for the country.

“Consumers look to Disney as a trusted source of family travel,” said Buckley. “And Australia’s inclusion in their itinerary will catch the attention of families desiring a high end holiday experience in the country.”

With the combined exposure from ATE08 and “Australia,” the country hopes that travelers will stop viewing Australia as their dream trip and make it their next trip.