Letter from Perth: Learn More About Australia!
By James Ruggia
July 02, 2012 11:45 PM
One of the most important functions of Australia’s new “There’s nothing like Australia” campaign, which was officially unveiled at this year’s Australia Tourism Exchange (ATE) in Perth, June 15-21, is to help travel agents learn more about the destination and its travel possibilities. The origins of the campaign go back to 2010 when Tourism Australia sought out and uploaded nearly 30,000 stories and images from Australians who fed it all into the website, www.nothinglikeaustralia.com.
That feedback went into the creation of an interactive digital map of Australia that was composed of the things Australians think are special about their country. The map is located on Australia’s main tourism website, www.australia.com, which attracts more than a million unique visitors each month. The map is searchable by experience, location and by 1,000 keywords.
Running in dozens of overseas markets the campaign website collectively receives more than three million unique visitors each month, with each visitor spending an average of 2.73 minutes on the site. The site helps visitors plan an Australian holiday by highlighting local tourism products. Images as well as links to operator websites are also included. There are also ideas and tips on where to stay, how to get around, what’s on, things to do, and even suggestions on trips and excursions.
An “in the area’ button allows users to discover local tourism products and attractions. The site also features direct links to holiday deals featured on Tourism Australia’s consumer website, www.australia.com. An interactive tablet app and hub are available from download from the website as well. The app takes visitors further into the stories played out in the new TV ad and provides more information on the locations represented in that ad. The app has already been downloaded 6,000 times.
On the travel agent front, a major review of the Aussie Specialist program is currently under way and will be completed by the end of July.“How can we make the program better?” asks Brian Albano, Tourism Australia’s regional partnership manager. “We started the review in March using town hall meetings to interact with industry stake holders. We’re on a 120-day evaluation. We need measurement of production, education levels and marketing effectiveness. We’ll have announcements before long.”
There are about 24,000 Aussie Specialists in 110 countries, some 3,000 of them in the US. Roughly 120 of those US agents are premier specialists.They are the Navy Seals of selling Australia. Knowing this destination is especially important for agents, says Suzanne Hall, senior director of marketing and development-land tours for Ensemble Travel Group, the travel agency cooperative. “This is a vast country. Agents need to have a proper understanding of its logistics as well as its enormous experiential content. There’s a lot to learn here.”
Of course, no ATE would be complete without some airline fireworks. Since the days when Ansett and Qantas were doing battle, there’s always been a hot airline issue at the conference. These have not been easy times for Qantas and its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar. The airline has had to fend off constant speculation that it will begin selling assets.
But Stephen Thompson, Qantas’ general manager, says that despite economic cycles, natural disasters, the high cost of fuel and the European economic crisis, the airline is strong and is not entertaining the sale of any of its assets. “We have A$3 billion in hand in case we need to raise equity,” he says. Indeed, at ATE Thompson unveiled a new corporate structure that on July 1 will put Qantas’ domestic and international divisions under separate CEOs (Lyell Strambi and Simon Hickey, respectively) with Alan Joyce as the overall CEO.
In his press announcement, Thompson highlighted the importance of alliances. He was particularly bullish on all of the new customers that Australia is getting and all the new regions of the U.S. being opened to Australians thanks to the Dallas/Fort Worth-Sydney service (which went daily on July 1). Qantas, a partner in oneworld with American Airlines, now has access to 60 new gateways through American. Over time Thompson insists that the pursuit of the “right network, the right routes and the right product” will prevail. “We just invested A$400 million in 12 A380s and refitting nine 747-400s,” he says. “We’re putting up new first-class lounges designed by Marc Newson in Singapore, Hong Kong and Los Angeles. We’re testing Internet and emails in the sky.”
With new Qantas, Virgin Australia, Delta and United flights, capacity between the U.S. and Australia is growing. That’s good, according to Andrew McEvoy, Tourism Australia’s managing director, because in order to achieve Australia’s 2020 goals, the country will need a growth in international airline capacity of 54 percent and a 24 percent increase within Australia. Qantas, Virgin Australia and such Middle Eastern carriers as Emirates and Etihad are on pace to reach that capacity. The Middle Eastern carriers offer the prospect of transforming Perth into a gateway for Americans flying out of the East Coast over Europe via Dubai or Qatar into Perth. McEvoy also says there is a need for 42,000 more beds in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, but A$42billion is already in the investment pipeline.
One place to expand the U.S. market for Australia is taking place along its coastlines as the cruise industry here, still in its infancy, grew some 30 percent in 2011. “The cruise companies are looking our way,” says McEvoy. “They’re building plenty of new ships and they need new destinations. Many Australian ports are ideal because they’re often that ideal overnight sail in distance from one another. It also works well in combination with New Zealand. There’s still much to be done in terms of infrastructure. In Sydney, we are seeing if we can take some of the port space being used by the Navy at Garden Island near Kings Cross.”
James Ruggia is executive editor covering Pacific Asia and Europe for TravelPulse.com. This is the third and final column from the Australian Tourism Exchange in Perth.