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Last month, Tourism Australia hosted the Australia Tourism Summit, its yearly trade conference, at The Langham Huntington hotel in Pasadena, Calif. The fifth annual event drew 285 guests, including wholesale and retail operators, consortia, airlines, media and Australian accommodation and experience providers.
The summit kicked off with presentations focused on the “future of travel,” with insights from brands such as Airbnb, W Hotels Worldwide, Boeing, News Corp, National Geographic and others.
Jane Whitehead, vice president of the Americas for Tourism Australia, was one of the keynote speakers at the summit, providing an update on the organization’s strategy through the year 2020 and beyond. According to Whitehead, international visitors to Australia are up 11 percent, with U.S. visitors up 16 percent. She also said visitor spend has been averaging about 6 percent over the last six years, with the U.S. market up 8 percent.
Whitehead said the states that generate the most American visitors to Australia are California and Texas, with many non-stop flights, but the source of visitors is really quite diversified across the US, with many coming from the affluent east coast states as well.
These numbers are good news when it comes to Australia’s long-term goal for growth. The 2020 goal, when it was set, was to increase expenditures from $70 billion to $115 billion. As of September 2016, total visitor expenditure was $99 billion.
“We certainly believe we’ve moved out of the foundation phase of the strategy and into the ‘seeing-the-results’ phase,” Whitehead said. “We’re very optimistic about the next few years and are aiming to go beyond that $115 billion target.”
According to Whitehead, Australia is undergoing a hotel boom. Last year, the country surpassed the 100,000 hotel room number for the first time. This growth is coming from established brands such as W Hotels and The Ritz-Carlton, which are expanding their footprints in Australia, as well as boutique hotels that are tailored to millennial or millennial-minded visitors.
“We are also seeing that hotel investors are getting very creative,” she said. “They are looking at converting existing buildings into great new hotels or mixed-purpose developments, as well.”
Another trend Whitehead sees is that the tourism industry in Australia has been moving from a predominantly demographic-based focus, to one that is based on core behavioral and attitudinal elements, too.
In other words, marketers are focusing more on the interests of potential travelers and matching travelers with the right region or experience. In particular, Tourism Australia sees a lot of potential with affluent travelers and young millennial visitors.
Finally, Whitehead said the Aussie Specialist program, which was relaunched a little over a year ago, has had a 40 percent increase with more than double the number of trainees in the pipeline. Tourism Australia also plans to organize agent fam trips.
Other presentations at the summit included “Navigating With Nous” by Robert Thomson, CEO of News Corp; “Marketing in the Divided, United States (Lessons from the 2016 US Election)” by Kasha Cacy, CEO of United States Universal McCann; “Disruptive Hospitality, Learning How to See and Surf Disruption” by Chip Conley, head of global hospitality and strategy for Airbnb; and “Breaking the Rules of Luxury” by Anthony Ingham, global brand leader for W Hotels Worldwide.
Travel journalist Peter Greenberg led a panel discussion on the topic “Travel in a Time of Disruption, and Global Uncertainty, Fear and the Law of Unintended Consequences.”
Several of these presentations are available on the Tourism Australia website.