Australia’s travel industry has not rested on its laurels during the pandemic, with many new tourism updates taking place even before the country's border reopening last February.
It’s all part of the message Tourism Australia delivered to travel industry professionals at Australia Marketplace North America 2022, which took place Aug. 7-9 in Los Angeles. For many Australian tourism officials and suppliers, the event marked their first time back in the U.S. since the start of COVID-19, and included business appointments and networking opportunities for buyers and sellers to reconnect and learn all the latest updates.
“It’s important for us to reconnect with the advisor community and for them to get re-engaged with our training programs to understand what’s new and what has been developed in the last couple of years, as well as to engage with events like this to meet with partners,” said Chris Allison, vice president of the Americas for Tourism Australia.
According to the organization, U.S. demand for Australia is showing strong signs of recovery, registering a 63% increase (compared to 2019) in forward bookings as of June. And the country is looking to capitalize on traveler interest to further boost its tourism recovery.
Here’s a look at what’s new in Australia.
According to Allison, Australia’s air connectivity is currently at 52% of its pre-COVID-19 levels, and will reach 79% by the end of this year.
New routes are coming online, as well, with Qantas set to fly from Dallas to Melbourne for the first time beginning this December, and United Airlines introducing its first service from San Francisco to Brisbane later this year. Allison also says that Qantas has “strong intent” to start flying nonstop from New York to Australia in the next two or three years, which he calls “a game changer” for the destination.
With international visitation ramping back up, Australia is working hard to keep up with demand and solve the industry-wide problems that most global destinations are facing.
“Overall, we’re really happy with how demand is building back at the moment,” Allison said. “We have a lot of challenges, like other destinations; as our airline partners ramp back up their frequency, there’s a significant amount of demand and not enough supply. But we’ve been really lucky in that we’ve had a fairly vibrant domestic tourism market for the last couple of years, which has allowed many businesses to survive.”
When it comes to the country’s strategy for attracting visitors, Allison says the organization has “done a bit of work the last couple of years to re-evaluate our target audience.”
Broadly speaking, Australia is looking for a “high-yield traveler;” customers who have a high propensity to travel internationally and have previously expressed interest in traveling to Australia or that general region of the world.
The destination has identified new target markets within the U.S., as well, and a core focus will be attracting visitors from California, Texas and New York over the next year or two.
We have been talking a lot about multigenerational travel, family travel and digital nomads … and we’ll be watching those channels.
“Beyond that, we’re still trying to understand the emerging trends,” Allison added. “We have been talking a lot about multigenerational travel, family travel and digital nomads. We’re trying to understand how [those new trends] impact us, and we’ll be watching those channels.”
Allison also notes that Australia is receiving strong bookings from the luxury segment , as these travelers are less impacted by inflation. It’s a good opportunity for travel advisors to capitalize on — and one with a lot of potential for upselling, too.
“We are seeing the yield triple in volume at the moment,” Allison said of traveler spend. “From a campaign we did in the initial stages of reopening, we saw [traveler] volume return at 52% of 2019 levels, but the revenue returned at 80%.”
New Hotels, Attractions and Experiences
While there have been countless changes among individual hotels, companies and attractions across Australia over the past few years, there are a few standout developments that Tourism Australia is excited to share with travel advisors and their clients.
“Key for us is the amount of new accommodation that’s come online,” Allison said. “We’ve had 100 new hotels or hotel refurbishments in the last two years, and we’ve had 12,000 new hotel rooms come into the system.”
Among the highlights are international brands entering Australia for the first time, including The Ritz-Carlton (which opened a property in Perth and has one in the works in Melbourne for early 2023) and W Hotels (which now has hotels in Brisbane and Melbourne, with a Sydney property to come in May of 2023).
I think one of the key messages we want to get out to people is that despite the fact that Australia has been closed the last couple of years, there’s so much new waiting for people when they come back.
In terms of new experiences, hot additions include the Museum of Underwater Art in Queensland — where visitors can dive among underwater art installations — as well as new Aboriginal experiences under Tourism Australia’s Signature Experiences collection of preferred travel offerings.
“One of the key messages we want to get out is that even though Australia has been closed the last couple of years, there’s so much that’s new waiting for people when they come back,” Allison said.
South Australia Updates
Another area that’s seeing major investment and development is South Australia.
“South Australia is the artisan of Australia,” said Chantal Ward, general manager of global markets and trade for the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC). “We’re looking for the curious-minded traveler who wants to experience something different. And we’ve got the WOW, as we refer to it — the wildlife, the Outback and the wine. So, we’re perfectly positioned right now for that luxury traveler coming in from North American markets.”
South Australia is the artisan of Australia. We’re looking for the curious-minded traveler who wants to experience something different.
Ward notes that the South Australian government has made a big investment in travel by way of the $20 million Tourism Industry Development Fund, which provided 114 grants to regional tour operators, hotels and other travel businesses to upgrade their product or add new offerings. What’s more, the SATC has just announced a $2 million grant program centered around wildlife and native investment, according to Ward.
Noteworthy new hotels in the region include Sofitel Adelaide, Eos by SkyCity, Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets and the luxurious Sequoia lodge (on the side of Mount Lofty), all of which opened during the pandemic.
Upcoming reopenings include the iconic Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island — which was razed two years ago in bushfires but is being rebuilt for a debut in the second half of 2023 — and The Louise in the Barossa Valley, which is undergoing a multimillion-dollar refurbishment now that it has joined the Bailie Lodges family, and will welcome guests again in September.
“There’s been so much happening in South Australia over the pandemic,” Ward said. “Adelaide, for one, has a whole new vibrancy attached to it. A lot of wineries had renovations, and there are operators with outdoor and wildlife experiences that are just extraordinary. And travelers can really get in touch with the people who run these businesses. What you take away from those experiences — I think that’s what’s great about South Australia.”