ATEC view: May edition

Peter Shelley, managing director ATEC

Tourism has become a international economic powerhouse as more and more of the global population looks to travel. Australia holds a strong place in the global market, with international tourism spending now delivering more than $40b to our economy.

But this is a highly competitive market and travel trends are changing quickly. People are seeking out unique experiences, bespoke itineraries and new frontiers. In a time-poor society, travellers want ease and convenience of access, and they want great service too. As ATEC has identified in its policy priorities, the key issues in maintaining our competitiveness as a destination include our ability to provide great visitor access and exceptional visitor experience.

Every contact a visitor has with a destination — from the first point of research, to the booking process, including in some cases applying for a visa — every touch point — is a ‘moment of truth’ between the intending traveller and our wonderful destination. And every ‘moment of truth’ must be a positive experience.

These experiences can make or break our destination appeal and being known as a friendly, streamlined and quality destination is a marketing asset we should focus on. Tourism Australia has done this with the resurgence of the ‘Dundee’ campaign which elevates one of our greatest assets — good humoured, welcoming and friendly Australians.

While the Federal Government has done a great deal to deliver more efficiencies for international travellers, we are still seeing some issues in the system that are having an immediate negative impact.

One of these issues is how we are managing the growing Indian market. In the past few years, India has gone from ‘one to watch’ to a clearly growing market and in the 12 months to December 2017, this was our strongest growing market in both visitor numbers and spend.

At the same time, our members report increasing frustration with the visa approval system which is failing to keep up with these increasing volumes. Long visa processing times are now having a detrimental impact on decisions for not only Indian travellers, but also the Indian travel wholesaler and the inbound operators who facilitate their travel to Australia.

We now have Indian travel wholesalers thinking twice about putting Australia on their destination list. And the truth is that with so many other destinations competing aggressively for the Indian tourism dollar, we risk our destination being put in the too hard basket.

With so many first-time visitors, particularly those from non-English speaking backgrounds, engaging with Australia, we need to make sure we get this visa equation right and that every touch point in the travel planning experience is a positive ‘moment of truth’.