AUSTRALIA TOURISM IS TACKLING one of the most prevalent conceptions U.S. travelers have about the country—and one that isn't entirely false. It's the one about Australia being a destination to visit when you've got plenty of time, what with it being on the other side of the world and all.
"Travelers in the U.S. think nothing of taking short trips to Europe, but they're convinced that they need two or three weeks to visit Australia, that it's the trip of a lifetime," Michelle Gysberts, who was recently appointed Tourism Australia's vice president, the Americas, said at a marketing event at CBS Studios in Los Angeles. "We identified a market we weren't getting our fair share of...we want our share of time-poor Americans."
The tourist office's campaign makes the case that Americans, who regularly take seven-day trips to destinations such as Tuscany or even Shanghai, can easily include Australia in their plans for shorter trips. The trick is to pick a region of Australia to explore in depth, instead of trying to experience the whole country in one visit.
To this end, Tourism Australia has created three city break packages costing $1,699 per person for seven nights. Clients can take their pick of "Sassy Sydney," "Marvelous Melbourne" and "Beachy Brisbane." These packages include roundtrip air from San Francisco or Los Angeles and four-star accommodations.
"We're addressing head-on the misconception that is keeping Americans from visiting Australia," says Howard P. Goldberg, vice president of leisure sales, the Americas, for the Australian airline Qantas. "It's not a 20-hour flight. Flying to Australia from the West Coast—about 14 hours—is the same as flying from the West Coast to Europe."
Goldberg notes that Qantas' personal entertainment system at every seat, with more than 400 choices on demand, and fine Aussie wine and food make for a pleasurable trip. "Plus," he says, "Australians like Americans and the exchange rate is favorable when compared to the Euro and the British pound." Goldberg adds with a smile, "and Australians even speak English—sort of."
For Aussie Week in January, Tourism Australia created a contest among travelers. A half-hour CBS special broadcast last month featured video diaries from a selection of winners, showing their visits to Australia's iconic sites and off-the-beaten path destinations. A sampling of video clips was shown at the L.A. Aussie Week event and hit an appealing note, with lots of informal humor and high spirits.
At the event, there was some talk about the need for travel agents to also change their mindset about Australia. Some are concerned that agents would direct their clients away from considering a seven-day Australia trip.
"This sort of shift will take some time, but this year's Aussie Week promotion on the West Coast is the start," says Geoff Buckley, Tourism Australia managing director.