PHOTO: Cooking Schools at the Lake House outside of Melbourne are hybrids of food and experience. (Courtesy of of Lake House)
Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his angry rush to throw a cold shoulder to the other world leaders at the G20 Summit (Nov. 15 and 16 in Brisbane) by leaving early was composed enough to stay for dinner, before leaving. These days, the people that know Australian cooking never miss a chance to stay for dinner.
In its long quest to locate the spark that will ignite international travelers to finally act on their bucket list desires to visit down under, Tourism Australia (TA) has been serving up the quality of Australian food in its Restaurant Australian promotional campaign. Since it launched early this year, the Restaurant Australia campaign has been showcasing the country’s food and wine experiences, bringing together stories of the country’s people, produce and places.
The Invite the World to Dinner event took place on Nov. 14 in the capital of Tasmania, Hobart. It brought together scores of international food and wine writers, celebrity chefs and TV personalities coming to dine with such Aussie foodies as Maggie Beer, Matt Preston and Matt Moran to sample a menu created by Restaurant Australia Head Chefs Ben Shewry, Peter Gilmore and Neil Perry AM.
It was the climax event of TA’s Restaurant Australia campaign, and TA estimates the VIP guests had an influence reach of 400 million. That’s a lot of hungry travelers. The event took place at Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart. Food and wine offer a strong travel component not only at the table but in visiting wineries, artisanal food producers, food festivals and more.
"What our chefs pulled together and the setting in which the meal was served was nothing short of breathtaking and has truly demonstrated the exceptional quality and unique produce we have on offer here in Australia,” said John O'Sullivan, managing director Tourism Australia. “We hope all of our guests head home with the taste of Australia still firmly imprinted on their palate, and we look forward to them sharing their experiences with their many followers." These culinary VIPS also toured the country to experience more than a thousand of Australia's best food and wine offerings in every state and territory.
Surveys by TA of Americans who have travelled in Australia ranked the country as the #1 destination for food and wine, surpassing even France and Italy. It’s the kind of ranking Australia’s been topping a lot lately. In September, for instance, Sydney was named World Festival & Event City for the fifth consecutive year by the International Festivals & Events Association.
As for those other VIPS at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, the event not only attracted heads of state, but also dignitaries from the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Labour Organization, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. Some 4,000 high-clout visitors and, maybe even more importantly, the press coverage from 3,000 international media showcased Brisbane as more than a holiday hub for domestic Australian travelers.
Who Is Down Under?
One of the core urgencies for TA is to send a message that Australia is not an edge of the world destination. The country is very much in the middle of things politically and culturally. This makes the promotion of events even more important because events bring leaders to the destination, and people follow leaders.
The new $1.1 billion International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) has already confirmed 17 events for 2017 and beyond. Meanwhile, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre will be extended to keep up with the increasing demand for event space. The expansion is looking to include additional exhibition and banquet space, smaller meeting rooms, new plenary options and an exciting new indoor-outdoor networking and entertainment space.
“Securing major events has been a priority for Destination NSW, the government's tourism and major events agency, as we work towards achieving our goal of doubling overnight visitor expenditure by 2020,” said Destination New South Wales (DNSW) CEO, Sandra Chipchase. In 2014, aggressively sought out and put on such high profile events as the 2014 Opening Series of Major League Baseball, the National Rugby League Grand Final Week, Vivid Sydney, the Southern Hemisphere's largest festival of light, music and ideas, owned and managed by Destination NSW.
The TA has for several years now been doing more to integrate travel marketing with food and wine marketing. More than a decade ago they even made an important wine marketing executive, Ken Boundy, the head of TA. This year TA brought together some 200 partners in food and wine to promote the quality of its culinary product in the “There’s nothing like Australia” campaign. Recent studies done in 2012 showed that highlighting the country’s best food and wine tourism experiences increased consumer motivation to travel to Australia by 30 percent.