Stoking demand

With traveller optimism at an all-time high and many countries vying for the tourism dollar, Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison is working hard to ensure Australia is perceived as one of the most desirable holiday destinations on the planet

What is the status of international arrivals into Australia right now?
Based on the reopening experience of other destinations, we expect the number of visitors into Australia to bounce back to around 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels relatively quickly.

According to recent data from ForwardKeys’ forward flight booking volumes, our key international markets are back to 53 per cent when compared to the same week in 2019.

That is what we have seen so far, which means we are on the right track to getting back to pre-pandemic levels as quickly as possible, though it will take some time for the international market to ramp up.

How is Australia planning to stand out in this ultra-competitive world all clamouring for tourist dollars?
When it was announced Australia was reopening its international borders, we moved quickly to get campaigns into our target markets to remind international travellers what Australia has to offer.

For example, our Don’t Go Small, Go Australia campaign launched with live site activations in the UK and the US. The campaign has also been rolled out into Germany, France, Italy and New Zealand.

At the same time, we also pushed out the Yours to Explore campaign, which first launched in Singapore last year, and has now been rolled out into India, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Japan and Greater China.

We also have more campaigns in the pipeline to help Australia stand out from the crowd. Coming up in 2H2022, we will launch another brand campaign which has been timed for when the pent-up demand of the past two years starts to wear off.

It is worth mentioning that the tourism industry is very important to the Australian economy. It is our number one service export, and number four overall export, and is responsible for one in 13 jobs in Australia. Not only has the industry been missing international visitors, the communities that rely so heavily on tourism have as well.

What trends do you see in the post-lockdown world and how is Tourism Australia tapping into this knowledge?
Our latest research has found several emerging trends, which I believe, make Australia an even more desirable destination. For example, one trend we have noticed is that more travellers are craving more authentic wildlife experiences – something we have an abundance of in Australia.

We also find that sustainability is now a growing consumer consideration. What this means is that people are moving beyond calculating carbon footprints, and instead, are looking for sustainability to grace every part of their travel experience.

We are also aware that working remotely is a growing trend, which provides new opportunity for Australia to attract such travellers to live and work here.

At this point, do you think Australia’s travel industry is poised for even greater growth?
What we do know is that there is significant pent-up demand for travel as we emerge from the pandemic. Savings are up and after spending plenty of time at home over the past two years, people are ready to get out and spend on travel.

Through consumer sentiment research, we found that we do not have any problem with demand. The challenge is moving that intention to visit Australia – which we know is high around the world – to actually booking the trip. We are going to focus on converting that demand right now.

So, we are optimistic about the future of travel and hope that more people will choose Australia to explore all we have to offer.

How about China’s outbound travellers, do you think they will remain the global force they had become?
Pre-Covid, China was Australia’s largest and most valuable tourism market. In 2019, Australia welcomed more than 1.4 million visitors from China who spent a combined total of A$12.4 billion (US$8.9 billion). The market is important to us and we look forward to welcoming Chinese visitors back again sometime in the future.

For the purposes of business planning, Tourism Australia continues to prepare for various scenarios for when travel does resume for the China market. In the meantime, we continue to invest, engage and inspire consumers in China with Australia content.

As Tourism Australia chief, I am sure you have seen a lot of Australia. What is one place you have yet to visit and what draws you there?
In my role, I have been incredibly fortunate to be able to explore a lot of Australia, but I think I still have so much more of the country to explore.

One area I’m really keen to visit is the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. It is a place of extreme natural beauty and offers amazing experiences like swimming with dolphins and sea lions, as well as cage diving with great white sharks.

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