ONSITE: Australian Tourism Exchange Highlights Increased Spending from U.S. Market

Brisbane-Australian Tourism Exchange 2007 opened in Brisbane on May 24 and the buzz on the show floor and at press briefings was about the importance of marketing Australia to emerging markets such as China, India and Korea. There also was concern expressed over the dip in Japanese arrivals, primarily due to the yen's poor performance against the Australian dollar.

The seven-day event attracted approximately 1,700 Australian delegates from 630 companies, who met with 600 overseas buyers from more than 40 countries. Monday, May 28 saw the official launch of the revamped web site [www.australia.com].

While hotels and deals are listed on the web site, actual booking occurs off site, but links are provided to "Aussie Specialists." "Agents will use the site as well," said Geoff Buckley, managing director of Tourism Australia. "The site is meant to encourage consumers to buy--but they'll choose the distribution channel." In 2006, 58 percent of international Australian-bound tourists used the Internet to research travel, up from 22 percent in 2003.

Travel Agent sat down with Buckley, who acknowledged that the U.S. also is a core market for Australia. "It's one of our top five markets in terms of numbers and yield," said Buckley. He explained that although arrivals from the U.S. grew three percent in 2006, the U.S. market saw 40 percent growth in visitor nights and 15 percent growth in yield and dollars spent.

When asked about the goals for the revamped Tourism Australia web site, Buckley replied that Tourism Australia is working with wholesalers to not only put product up on the site, but to also communicate the Australian travel experience. Even though the most visible part of the country's tourism marketing is directed at "experience seekers"-visitors who want to connect with Australia's indigenous culture, nature, food and wine and other experiential aspects of travel-Buckley also stressed the importance of the traditional motor coach segment. Mixing metaphors a bit, Buckley noted: "There are two streams, but we have to make sure we don't take our foot off the accelerator of them both."

Buckley also predicted an expansion of Australia's tourism when new planes and routes begin to come online in 2008. Recently, Qantas Airways announced an expanded international schedule that includes two additional Brisbane-Los Angeles flights each week; as well as an additional Sydney-Los Angeles service each week. These flights will commence in March 2008. When the two extra Brisbane flights begin, Qantas will have upped its flights to daily service between Brisbane and Los Angeles.