The new Little Hastings resort has been built along the Sunshine Coast near Brisbane and flanks the Noosa National Park
Australia is putting the Americas on the front burner of its marketing plans, with Daryl Hudson taking charge as the regional general manager of the Americas for Tourism Australia and a host of new products and initiatives unveiled last month at Corroboree Thrive! The Americas 2009 (at which Travel Agent was the exclusive trade publication).
The event, held in Adelaide, had 150 Aussie Specialist and Premier Aussie Specialist travel agents from the U.S. and Canada meeting 100 destination suppliers. Although this year has seen the biggest drops in North American visitors to Australia in a decade, the mood was upbeat, 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 trend 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 attractive fares to Sydney and Brisbane making travel Down Under hard to resist.
An aggressive campaign through Qantas Vacations is sending North Americans to Australia with five days in a top hotel in Sydney for under $1,000. “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 Aussie Specialist Kleon Howe, 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.”
Among the highlights of this year’s Corroboree:
The Federal Group Tasmania whose hotels include the Henry Jones Art Hotel, Cradle Mountain Chateau, Strahan Village, Wrest Point and Freycinet Lodge, is opening Saffire in 2010. The exclusive property at Freycinet (a two-hour transfer by luxury motor vehicle or a 40-minute private air connection from Hobart) on Tasmania’s East Coast, will have 20 suites that each rent for $1,065 to $2,220, including breakfast and activities. Each suite will have an ocean view, designer bathroom, private deck and separate lounge area and art studio. Premium suites will feature private plunge pools.
Outrigger Hotels & Resorts is opening a new property on the Sunshine Coast in Noosa, about an hour’s drive from Brisbane. Called Little Hastings, the resort flanks the lush canopies of Noosa National Park and is just a two-minute walk on timber path to the beach. The luxury digs include 197 villas, conference facilities for 350 to 500 people, three pools, an eight-room spa and Jacuzzi tubs for 10 filled with steaming mineral water.
Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa opened this month as Emirates Hotels & Resorts’ first foray into Australia. The property is a three-hour drive from Sydney (helicopter transfers available) on a 4,000-acre former cattle farm. The ecologically friendly resort has 40 freestanding suites, each with its own pool. Rates, which run $1,730 per night per couple, are all-inclusive with plenty of activities, including horseback riding, 4x4 bush explorations, wildlife walks and Aboriginal tours.
Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney recently opened a fitness center and will debut its Chi Spa in December. The property overlooks Sydney Harbour between the bridge and Opera House, has 563 rooms, each with a complimentary broadband Internet connection. The Executive Lounge on the 30th floor has breakfast, high tea and hors d’oeuvres daily. An Emerald City package runs through December for $257 per night and breakfast for two.
While the numbers may be down from last year, Tourism Australia forecasters expect the drop to have leveled out by 2010, followed by a steady movement upward over the next 10 years.
“There’s no doubt we’re facing significant challenges with the business from North America, but there is 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.”
The Opal Awards
THE THRIVE 2009 OPAL Awards announced in Adelaide Town Hall for the 16th Corroboree wrap-up gala were given in recognition of creativity and resourcefulness in marketing Australia to clients and consumers. Judges included members of the press, suppliers and Tourism Australia staff.
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 $50
• 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
The eco-friendly Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is Emirates Hotels & Resorts’ first venture in Australia