Long road ahead for 2020 targets

TA MD John O'Sullivan 3By Tourism Australia MD John O’Sullivan

It was only after sitting down to begin writing this column that it occurred to me that it’s been more than a year now since I took on the top job at Tourism Australia.

It’s been an eventful and productive 12 months, but I’m under no illusions that there’s still lots more to be done if our industry is truly to achieve its full potential.

International arrivals and spending are both at record levels, growing at around 8% per annum, which by any standards is no mean feat. However, if we are to achieve even the lower end of our industry’s shared Tourism 2020 goal, we need to do more.

In fact, to achieve our international ‘low growth’ spend target of $115 billion by 2020, we need average growth of at least 10% each year between now and the end of the decade. That’s the challenge Tourism Australia and the industry faces and one we have to deliver in an increasingly competitive global landscape, with up to 190 other destinations all vying for their own slice of the tourism pie.

 So, can we achieve this ambitious goal our industry set itself in 2009? And, if so, how are we going to deliver that double-digit annual growth between now and 2020?

The good news is we have a great, saleable product. Fundamentally, ours is a destination with enormous appeal – assets such as our world-class natural beauty, great food and wine, and welcoming people. But all of this is only a competitive advantage if it can be successfully converted in to more visits, particularly from high yielding visitors likely to stay longer, travel deeper and spend more.

Our focus has to be on ensuring we are investing in areas that will drive increased spend and conversion. This means targeting and, if necessary, re-directing our marketing resources towards those international markets that present the best growth prospects, such as China and the USA. It also means targeting higher yield travel segments, and as such, business and major events will also be a focus for us in the coming financial year.

Our marketing communications and partnership activities must engage and inspire consumers to take the next step. This means conversion and ensuring all our marketing activities are linked to a distribution partner.

Being connected across all the touch points that consumers use in booking their holiday is critical. We will continue to invest heavily in digital but not at the expense of traditional distribution channels which remain important in many of our markets. One of the exciting initiatives we have planned for the coming months is the relaunch of our Aussie Specialist Program, providing an improved online platform to engage with travel agents and drive yield.

Look to also see us extend some of our key airline partnerships in the coming months. We’ll also be targeting and hopefully signing some exciting new partnerships from non-travel sectors – financial services and technology providers, for example – which will help drive an increase in international tourism expenditure.

Another example of making our marketing more conversion-focused is the recent revamp of Australia.com. The new site has been designed to make it simpler for people to plan and book travel to and through Australia. But, importantly, the design also makes it easier for us to work with our commercial partners, using stronger data analytics, to test and learn what works best for ourselves and our partners.

Inspiring and engaging with consumers through great marketing campaigns – such as Restaurant Australia – will still be at the heart of what we do, with a much bigger focus on social and digital as we follow the channels today’s consumer is using to plan, book and share their holiday experiences. But as we hit the half way point in our Tourism 2020 journey, and move into the important phase of seeing the results, our focus has to shift more towards driving conversion and yield through effective and sustainable partnerships.