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Red-Hot Destination for AmericansSeptember 30, 2009 By: Lark Ellen Gould Travel Agent
Aerial View of Whitsunday
Aussie Specialists Bolstered by Actions and Intentions at this year’s Corroboree
Australia is putting the Americas on the front burner of their marketing plans with Daryl Hudson taking charge as the new regional general manager of the Americas for Tourism Australia and a host of new products and initiatives profiled this month at Corroboree Thrive! The Americas 2009. Travel Agent was the exclusive trade publication at the event. Here’s our report.
The charged event, which took place in Adelaide, had 150 Aussie Specialist and Premier Aussie Specialist travel agents from the U.S. and Canada meeting 100 destination suppliers. Ironically, this year has seen the steepest cuts in North American visitors to the great red continent in a decade.
But the mood is upbeat in Australia, especially among the agents who sell the destination. Spring/summer arrivals from the U.S. rose 10 percent in May over the same period in 2008. June continued the count with a 9 percent increase in arrivals over the year before. (Canada fared less well with a drop of 11 percent from May 2008 and flat yields for June.) The U.S. remains Australia’s fourth-largest market for both international visitors and spending.
Tourism marketers are betting on the airlines, and Qantas in particular (currently flying 49 percent of North American visitors to Australia), to help moderate the effects of America’s economic downturn with cushy fares to Sydney and Brisbane making travel to Australia hard to resist.
An aggressive Sydney $999 campaign through Qantas Vacations is sending North Americans to Australia with five days in a top hotel in Sydney for under $1,000 to stir up interest. “For people who would never consider coming to Australia, we say ‘come for a week and see it all.’ It’s no longer the $2,500 vacation,” says Michael Power, director of sales for Qantas Vacations in Los Angeles.
According to Kleon Howe—this year’s Opal Award winner for Outstanding Website Development by an Aussie Specialist with his site www.theartoftravel.com—business has been surprisingly brisk. “It depends how you work it,” he says. “I sell romance and weddings to a lot of high-end clients, and right now, Australia is selling well. The great fares from the airlines have certainly helped.”
While the numbers may be down from last year, Tourism Australia forecasters expect the nadir to have leveled out by 2010 followed by a steady movement upward over the next 10 years.
Outrigger Little Hastings Resort in Noosa
“There’s no doubt we’re facing significant challenges with the business from North America but there is a positive buzz emanating from the industry selling Australia in the Americas. We have to stay focused, listen to our partners and work with them to [succeed],” says Hudson. “The Aussie Specialist Program is a significant platform for Tourism Australia in the Americas, and we’re committed to making it stronger and more relevant for the membership and the Australian industry.”
The Thrive 2009 Opal Awards announced in Adelaide Town Hall for the 16th Corroboree wrap-up gala were chosen from a healthy stack of entrants vying for recognition for creativity and resourcefulness in marketing Australia to clients and consumers. Judges included members of the press, suppliers and Tourism Australia staff. The efforts for the 2008/2009 season were aided by the opening, buzz and success of Baz Luhrmann’s Australia last November.
This year’s Opal Award winners included:
Matt Knowles of Sea Escape Travel for Most Effective Tourism Related Australia Movie Promotion
Michelle Mangio of Magical Escapes Vacations for Most Effective Integrated Marketing Initiative under $500
Billy Martin and Melodye Martinelli of Let’s Travel Together for Most Effective Integrated Marketing Initiative over $500
Julie Garcia of Journeys By Ambassador Travel for Best Consumer Event
Bookabee Tours for Best New Experience at Corroboree
Tourism Queensland for Most Supportive State Tourism Board