Recently released figures predict an annual 6.3% growth in international visitors over the next decade, though the economic value is expected to rise by less than one per cent. Some interesting points:
(1) New South Wales received 2.7 million international visitors, Queensland 2.1 million and Victoria 1.3 million in the year ending December 2004. Victoria had the greatest annual growth rate with an increase of 4.2%.
(2) Queensland attracts more backpackers than any other state but the Regional Tourism Activity Monitor shows that it has shed 10% of these visitors since 2003 and Victoria has boosted its numbers through ‘savvy’ marketing, major sporting events and the availability of fruit-picking jobs.
(3) Victoria has had the greatest percentage increase in international visitors for the past five years says Bob Annells, Chair of the Victorian Travel Industry Council. This is the result of meticulous market research and planning, and the linking of major events with regional touring eg promotion for the Commonwealth Games shows images of sophisticated Melbourne and regional attractions alongside sports images.
(4) Matthew Hingerty of the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) says “The challenge is getting visitors to stay longer, spend more and return…..Unfortunately some operators are out to make a quick buck that results in a negative experience for inbound travellers….The problem is unauthorised or rogue tour operators who provide substandard and over-priced service and products, particularly to key Asian markets such as China.”
(5) Christopher Brown of the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) agrees and warns the tourism industry must adapt to changing tourist needs, particularly as by 2014 China will replace the UK, Australia’s top market in terms of earnings in 2004. Operators and communities need to play a role in encouraging tourists to spend more or we run the risk of “profitless volume”. “Investment in tourism related infrastructure will be critical to support industry development to meet these challenges.”
Let’s put the above info into a grassroots context and consider the worldwide popularity of cycling. The ‘Wilderness Bike Ride’ event run by the Orbost community in Far East Gippsland evoked comments like:
“Every cyclist dreams of roads with fantastic scenery, a decent surface and long downhill runs. Add good company, plenty of great food and a hot shower at the end of each day and cyclists think they’ve died and gone to heaven” from Klaus Joost, Germany, April 2004.
Orbost mover and shaker Liz Mitchell, one of the forces behind the event, says locals recognise that their walks and trails need to be made ‘user friendly’. Perhaps now is the time to seek grants and letters of support from tourism bodies and local government and to galvanise small business and the community into planning for a tourism future? The Australian Tourism Development Program (Replacing the Regional Tourism Development Program) will provide up to $500,000 for regional tourism initiatives.
Christopher Brown said the local tourism industry needs to remember Australia is fighting to compete globally “not only to encourage people to come to Australia but to keep Australians here as well….we must look at new opportunities for either unlocking untaken leave (around 40%) or encouraging domestic travel…We also have to treat the domestic market differently than we have in the past, because it’s obviously not working”.
South Australia has outperformed the other states with a 7% rise in the number of interstate and intrastate visitors in the year to September 2004 – the national average for domestic tourism continues to stagnate with a mere 0.4% increase recorded as more and more Australians take off overseas. South Australians visiting their own state rose by 9% compared with 3% growth nationally.
What is SA doing?
Karyn Kent of the SA Tourist Commission says their 2005 brochure ‘South Australian Holidays’ has ‘thematic’ sections and holiday packages on:
(iv) family holidays
The brochure’s point of difference is that it presents regional holidays that incorporate the small operators – including many B & Bs – who are often not featured in other promotional programs. The SATC is putting more resources into its relationship with travel agents and has increased its number of marketing people working on cooperative marketing opportunities with retail agents. These agents are booking predominantly regional holidays.
The SATC will run a series of brochure launches for agents in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in June and there will be a prize of a box of Haigh’s chocolate frogs for agents who sell an SA holiday package worth more than $300 between June 1 and August 31.
Tourism Tasmania is also running with a thematic approach. Professor Sam Ham (University of Idaho) a world-renowned expert on thematic interpretation is following up previous work in Tas. In May there will be two Workshops and a Thematic Interpretation Forum.Contact Robyn Geason on 6230 8360 or email Robyn.Geason@tourism.tas.gov.au.