Australia certainly knows how to welcome contented visitors: 5.2 million people visited in 2007 alone, generating $23 billion in revenue. Aussies aren’t short-staffed in the hospitality ranks either, employing almost half a million of their own in the flourishing tourism industry. Nowhere was their acuity more evident than at the 2008 Australian Tourism Exchange held June 14-20 in Perth, the thriving coastal capital city of Western Australia. ATE is the largest international travel trade show in the southern hemisphere, hosted this year by Tourism Australia along with sponsor partners Tourism Western Australia and the Qantas Group.
Aussie Meet and Greet
This year, 600 adventurous overseas buyers from over 40 countries came to Perth to meet more than 1,700 Australian delegates representing 630 companies at the Green Globe-accredited, $220 million Perth Convention Exhibition Centre. An estimated 45,000, 13-minute appointments took place between Australian tourism businesses and international buyers. ATE 2008 was predicted to inject approximately $10 million into the bustling local Perth economy, with some 13,000 visitor nights spent in the lovely city by the placid and expansive Swan River. This was despite an energy shortage that pinched power as a result of a major explosion at Western Australia’s second largest natural gas plant earlier in June.
Presentations at the Australia Tourism Exchange focused on sustainability and the native Aboriginal culture
While the primary focus was on sustainability and Australia’s Aboriginal culture, the loudest ATE buzz was about 20th Century Fox’s epic romantic action-adventure film Australia, directed by Moulin Rouge’s Baz Luhrmann and starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. The movie was filmed in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. Australia’s Minister for Tourism, the Hon. Martin Ferguson, announced that Tourism Australia is joining forces with both the studio and the director for the “See the Movie, See the Country” tourism project. When agency phones start ringing in early winter, specialists will have Tourism Australia’s promotional tools, such as fact sheets, movie maps and location guides, “to translate the movie experience of Australia into the possibility of a real-life travel adventure,” said Ferguson.
Couldn’t Ask For More
ATE attendees got down to the serious business of contemplating future travel to Australia given the uncertain impacts of a slowing world economy, increasing fuel prices and the strong Australian dollar. Good news: Estimated arrivals to Australia in May 2008 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show an increase of 5 percent compared to May 2007, reversing smaller drops in arrivals in March and April. If Australia the movie does for its namesake what The Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand tourism, there will be plenty of visitors eager to experience the wonder Down Under.
The possibilities afforded by the movie were addressed by Tourism Australia’s managing director, Geoff Buckley. “It is not often you see an epic film with your own brand in the title,” he said, especially a 2.5-hour film providing amazing product placement. He also cited increased capacity with Qantas’ new flagship A380 fleet and the start of Virgin Blue’s new V Australia services from the U.S. in late 2008.
Paul Fairweather, general manager, Tourism Research Australia, shared TRA industry “Snapshots” and urged U.S. agents seeking more finite statistics to source TRA’s website, www.traaustralia.com, then click “Visitor Profiles.” Last year, 459,733 Americans came to Australia, an increase of 1 percent from the previous year—making the U.S. the fourth-largest source of tourists, accounting for 6 percent of all international visitor nights in Australia in 2007. The U.S. is Australia’s second-largest source market in terms of total expenditure. In 2007, travelers from America spent a total of $2.5 billion on trips to Australia, with an average expenditure of $5,756 per trip.
Conference attendees also discussed the implications of Internet connectivity and its role in developing Australian tourism. Online videos continue to develop into powerful consumer research tools, and tourism operators and related organizations are using social media and networking sites to engage with techie travelers. Travel blogs and sites that deliver “unbiased” user-generated reviews, says Tourism Australia, will also increase their ability to influence purchase decisions.
Next year’s ATE is set for Melbourne and its sparkling new Convention Center on the Yarra River. Mark your calendar for June 13-19—but remember, Australia is a day ahead!