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While much of the spotlight during the recent Australia Tourism Exchange 2008 (ATE08) was cast on the upcoming international release of Twentieth Century Fox’s epic movie “Australia,” tourism officials from the Land Down Under premiered a line-up of blockbuster programs all their own.
Tourism Australia (TA) capitalized on ATE08’s platform to announce new initiatives providing travel trade and consumer marketers with a clearer picture of the country’s vast tourism offerings and how to most effectively target these to potential visitors.
Two-thirds of Australia’s inbound travelers already seek out a nature-based experience when visiting. The big question has been how to lure these individuals beyond the “reef and rock” while preserving rather than compromising those locales.
The National Landscapes announcement could not have come at a better time, according to Sorrel Wilby, an acclaimed Australian adventurer, filmmaker, author and photographer who spoke at ATE08.
“With growing concern about the fragility of the planet and the impact we continue to make upon it, the dawning of this initiative could not hope to be more relevant,” she said.
The pairing of tourism and conservation management has opened the door to promoting Australia’s ecotourism on a global stage.
“It’s a way for international and domestic visitors to recognize the very best of Australia’s many assets — natural and cultural,” said Wilby. “And it’s a way for the industry’s shareholders to promote and protect the truly iconic destinations we have here forever.”
Australia’s Red Centre was the first National Landscape recognized, with Rick Allert, TA chairman, announcing seven subsequent landscapes at ATE08. He added that plans call for an additional six landscapes to be designated over the next two years — two in Western Australia, three in South Australia and one in Queensland.
Each is selected against a set of core criteria that includes its capacity to attract visitors, provide iconic imagery and manage access without harming the landscape’s ecology or cultural significance.
Connecting the CountriesThe U.S. traveler, according to Michelle Gysberts, TA’s vice president of the Americas, epitomizes the target traveler to Australia, dubbed the “Experience Seeker.”
“They’re looking for a unique experience they can get into,” she said. “They don’t like to just watch. They want to meet people and participate in activities. Australians are very proud of what their country has to offer. And since they really like Americans, they’re eager to share it all with them.”
Gysberts pointed out that Australia consistently ranks as the top destination U.S. travelers want to visit when time and budget are not an issue. But while over 3 million U.S. West Coast residents travel annually to long-haul destinations, they are typically “time poor” and take no more than a week on any one vacation.
“Americans generally think nothing of jumping on a flight to Europe to spend their annual week’s vacation,” Gysberts said. “What many don’t realize is that from the U.S. West Coast, Australia is the same distance as many European destinations.”
Gysberts noted that National Landscapes should help agents better match their time-challenged clients with ideal itineraries. The program will roll out to the U.S. travel trade beginning in September, with a consumer push in early 2009 in conjunction with G’Day USA Australia Week. Celebrating its fifth year of success, the 10-day Australia Week event showcases the country’s vitality through all things Australian — including food, wine, film, arts, fashion, lifestyle, indigenous culture, tourism, trade and investment.
“Right now, we’re making sure we have the back-end educational systems in place for the travel trade,” she said.
Agents will be able to learn about National Landscapes through TA’s online training module, Webinars and a comprehensive image library.
“Those agents who are Aussie Specialists will also receive updates in their online Oz Escapes newsletters,” said Gysberts. “The great thing for U.S. travel agents is that we know once you get your clients to Australia for the first time, they’ll return. And National Landscapes is a great opportunity to help repeat clients explore more. Australia can deliver something for every interest, with the great Aussie character to boot!”
Australia’s Red Centre
Both the physical and metaphoric heart of the Outback, Australia’s Red Centre is a land of arid beauty intensified by natural monuments with spiritual power. Nature lovers will find World Heritage-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta, the ancient MacDonnell Ranges and wonders of Watarrka National Park, including Kings Canyon.
The region draws Outback wanderers who want to discover Aboriginal culture, meet homegrown characters, have a pint at a local pub, ride a camel, sleep under the stars in a swag (Aussie for a portable shelter), cook dinner over a campfire and swim in secluded waterways.
Air services link most major Australian cities with the town of Alice Springs. There are also direct flights to Uluru from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Cairns, as well as express motorcoaches from all capital cities.
“This is the heart of Australia, with its arid beauty, endless plains and monuments of nature — World Heritage Uluru-Kata Tjuta, the McDonnell Ranges and Kings Canyon,” said Gysberts. “It’s a world icon and a must-do.”
Australia’s largest terrestrial national park, World Heritage-listed Kakadu lies at the Northern Territory’s northern fringe some 105 miles east of Darwin. With a human history dating back at least 50,000 years, the region is a tapestry of wetlands, wildlife, archaeological sites, Indigenous cave paintings and Aboriginal rock art.
At Kakadu’s core is the South Alligator River, named by a 19th-century explorer who mistook the native reptile for alligators. Resident crocs share the neighborhood with kangaroos, dingoes, bats, large monitor lizards, pelicans, sea eagles and herons.
Here, campers trade five stars for 5 million stars. Other natural highs include bushwalking, embracing the indigenous culture of Binini/Mungguy tribes and touring such sites as Jim Jim Falls, the “Crocodile Dundee”-featured Gunlom and Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre.
Rugged and majestic, the ancient landscapes of Flinders Ranges reveal the story of life on earth. In fact, many Aussies say that to explore it is to experience the essence of the country. Sprawling across 270 miles in South Australia, the continent’s largest mountain ranges are divided into three distinct regions.
At the south are dramatic gorges, unique wildlife and amazing views from the peak of Mount Remarkable. In the center stands its most characteristic landmark, Wilpena Pound, an enormous natural amphitheater that sits like a colossal upturned hand. The north brings on an Outback feel with its starry skies, bouncing kangaroos and rugged peaks.
Since the area is so vast and remote, visitors should hop aboard coach services departing from Adelaide or fly to Coober Pedy and Whyalla. For luxury rail options, The Indian Pacific departs Sydney or Perth via Adelaide, and The Ghan travels from Adelaide through Alice Springs to Australia’s top end at Darwin.
“This is South Australia’s largest mountain range. It’s an emotionally uplifting, ancient place that offers sanctuary and tranquility for those looking for a break from everyday life,” said Gysberts.
Featured in the classic film “Man From Snowy River,” the Australian Alps reward with unexpected contrasts embodied in its people and their living stories. Stretching from Canberra to the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales and along eastern Victoria’s Great Divide, the Alpine and sub-Alpine environs offer a refreshing counterpoint to the dry, flat Outback.
“Stretching from Canberra through the Brindabella Range and along the Great Divide through Victoria, Australia’s Alpine environments are akin to any the world over. It’s a great place for those looking for rugged hiking or skiing in the winter.”
Encompassing broad plateaus, rolling ridges, steep valleys, glacial lakes, clear mountain springs and waterfalls tucked within 16 national parks and reserves, the region is best explored on foot or by four-wheel-drive.
Rich and diverse Aboriginal and European cultural heritages blend here with thriving year-round recreation — including horseback riding, cycling, paragliding, hang-gliding, hiking, fly-fishing, rafting, kayaking and skiing.
Great Ocean Road
With natural surprises unfolding at every turn, a journey along the Great Ocean Road through Victoria and South Australia leaves visitors uplifted and refreshed.
“A journey along the spectacular Great Ocean Road is unforgettable,” raved Gysberts. “Nature literally unfolds at every turn. Breathtaking scenery and quaint beach towns make this one of the world’s best road trips, perfect for groups and families.”
Winding alongside the wild and windswept Southern Ocean from Geelong to Portland, the route takes in historic ports, surf beaches, mountain ranges, whale lookouts, national parks and rainforests.
Those hitting the road can witness monster waves at famous Bells Beach; spot shipwrecks near the charming fishing village of Port Fairy; laze on the golden sands of Lorne; rove along the Great Ocean Walk; tour an Aboriginal site in an extinct volcano near Tower Hill; and be swept away by the Twelve Apostles — craggy limestone stacks rising majestically from the Southern Ocean.
Australia’s Green Cauldron
Stretching from Byron Bay to the Gold Coast and westerly toward the Great Dividing Range, Australia’s Green Cauldron is home to the world’s second largest shield volcano erosion crater. This vast caldera shelters a huge diversity of flora and fauna, subtropical rainforests and breathtaking mountain ranges.
In and around the ancient volcanic rim, visitors find fishing villages, market gardens, cascading waterfalls and wilderness areas. One activity not to be missed here is snorkeling with abundant marine life where the caldera meets the coast.
“Including the world’s second largest shield volcano erosion crater, the Green Cauldron takes in World Heritage-listed Mount Warning, subtropical rainforests and breathtaking mountain ranges from Byron Bay to the Gold Coast. It’s a photographer’s dream,” said Gysberts.
Australia’s Coastal WildernessA rare and relatively untouched region spreading across Victoria and New South Wales, Australia’s Coastal Wilderness wows with assorted terrain, natural history and living culture. Its ecosystems are so precious, in fact, that they are protected in a World Biosphere Reserve in Croajingolong National Park.
Explorers can stroll through historic lighthouses at Point Hicks and Green Cape; observe the world’s largest known colony of little penguins at Gabo Island; watch whales, dolphins and the secretive platypus; marvel at the folded colored rock at Quarry Beach; and gaze all night at the starlit sky.
Coastal towns of Eden and Merimbula are ideal bases from which to discover the region’s national parks. Rental car, rail and bus services provide daily area access from Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.
“This beautiful stretch of wilderness coastline takes in Croajingolong National Park, listed by UNESCO as a World Biosphere because its ecosystems are considered so valuable,” Gysberts said. “People who visit here feel like they have truly gone off the beaten path.”
Great Blue Mountains
Encompassing nearly 3,900 square miles, the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area in New South Wales is considered Australia’s most accessible wilderness because of its easy access to Sydney.
Here, a network of touring routes links its national parks and conservation areas with an inspiring mix of sandstone cliffs, rugged canyons, waterfalls and caves.
Guided interpretive bushwalks and four-wheel-drive ecotours take in the region’s most celebrated natural wonders. Visitors can also hop aboard the Katoomba Scenic Railway — known as the world’s steepest — descending nearly 1,400 feet through sandstone cliffs via a rock tunnel.
Other activities include the cliffs on Kanangra Walls, the view from Echo Point, with the famous Three Sisters in the foreground and Mount Solitary and Jamison Valley behind, and a climb up the giant staircase rising from the valley floor.
Agents looking to up their bookings by boosting their Aussie I.Q. should consider the Aussie Specialist Program.
“The Aussie Specialist Program equips agents with knowledge and skills necessary to sell Australia effectively,” said Michelle Gysberts, TA’s vice president of the Americas. “The online learning environment allows agents complete flexibility throughout the course to learn at their own pace and timeframe. And best of all, it’s free!”
Training covers comprehensive information on Australia, from the basics to detailed modules on each state/territory in the country as well as product specific modules. Upon completion, Aussie Specialists will receive bonus access to an Aussie help desk, conventions, fam trips, branded collateral, monthly e-newsletters and travel club membership.
Gysberts encourages agents to visit www.specialist.australia.com and complete the five-step application process on the site.
Australia Consumer: www.australia.comAussie Specialist Program: www.specialist.australia.comG’Day USA Australia Week: www.aussieweek.comParks Australia: www.environment.gov.auTourism Australia: www.tourism.australia.com
Read about the latest news from Australia in our ATE Trade Show Report.
Scroll down to read how experiences help define brand Australia.
In its ongoing effort to help travel agents and wholesalers sell Australia more effectively, Tourism Australia (TA) continues to enhance its trade marketing programs and resources. Among those announced at ATE08 was Australian Experiences.
"The key drivers and motivators for Australia’s target audience are experiences," said Michelle Gysberts, TA’s vice president of the Americas. "These experiences, which have been categorized, connect the traveler with Australia’s people, lifestyle and environment."
Formed from research reflecting the needs and wants of the Experience Seeker, each Australian Experience enhances Australia’s brand and its global marketing activity.
Aboriginal Australia - Indigenous Australians are custodians to one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures predating the Roman Empire and building of the Pyramids. And they’re eager to share it through art, storytelling, dance and music.
Aussie Coastal Lifestyle – With its shores bathed by the Pacific, Indian and Southern oceans and its waters stretching from the tropics to the Antarctic, Australia’s coastal areas brim with flora, fauna and marine life found nowhere else in the world.
Australian Major Cities - Australia has a young, free-spirited and uninhibited urban culture celebrated through multicultural neighborhoods, outdoors lifestyles, architecture, shopping, dining, nightlife and festivals.
Australian Journeys – Whether via horsepower or horseback, explorers can spend days or even weeks traipsing through rolling countryside to find red desert, sparkling waterholes, heritage sites, wilderness coast, island clusters and reefs.
Food & Wine - Over the past decade, Australia has become a culinary destination tempting "foodies" to taste their way through renowned wine regions, savor regional cuisine, explore markets and mix it up at cooking schools.
Nature in Australia - Vast wilderness, ancient landscapes and natural beauty are easily accessible, making it a breeze for nature lovers to discover Australia’s distinctive plants and intriguing wildlife found nowhere else.
Outback Australia – Those with a true sense of adventure can enjoy rustic open spaces with endless sky, cattle stations and friendly pubs, while meeting the people who make up Australia’s heartland – those larger than life characters with tall tales and an eagerness to share them.