Asia & South Pacific

Australia Packs a Punch

written by | Posted on December 1st, 2009

Very few destinations capture the imagination of North Americans as Australia, where some maintain that its legendary Outback remains the only place on earth where the “pioneer spirit” still lives and thrives.

But even if Australia lacked the exceptional outdoor character for which it is famed, the awesome allure of the world’s only country-continent would attract visitors by the thousands.

This is truly a “sunburned land” dotted with great cities, parched expanses, enormous deserts, a dark and inhospitable tropical belt that just might rival Brazil’s Mato Grosso, huge ranches (called “stations” in these parts), measureless beaches, an oversized barrier reef deemed as the world’s premier diving spot, and thousands of splendid attractions that have made travelers sit up and take notice since 1770 when Captain James Cook literally put Australia on the map.

It’s no wonder, then, that Australia is the recipient of Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Award as the South Pacific’s Best Selling Destination for the second straight year.

Travel agents have always found Australia is relatively easy to sell, and Tourism Australia has the figures to prove it: of the nearly half-million U.S. visitors who came last year, more than 20 percent used travel agents to arrange their visits.

In addition, the economic crisis seems to have had little effect on American tourism to Australia. In August alone (the latest data available) 37,900 U.S. visitors came—an impressive 11 percent increase from August of the previous year.

Tourism Australia’s v.p. for the Americas, Daryl Hudson, says, “Tourism Australia is extremely gratified that Recommend’s readers are reaping the benefits of Australia’s popularity as a vacation destination for Americans. Australia continues to be one of the most preferred destinations for U.S. vacations and offers substantial benefits to those agents who have specialized in selling the country’s diverse experiences.”

Hudson concurs that the country has almost a mythical pull on the American imagination. “For over a decade it’s been the number one most desired vacation destination for North Americans,” he adds. “And now, with lower airfares and more airlines flying there, Australia has never been more accessible or affordable.”

Hudson credits airline competition for keeping Australia firmly on the sights of prospective travelers because “two airlines—Delta and V Australia—have entered the direct route from the U.S. this year. With Qantas and United already flying directly, there are now four major airlines linking Australia to the U.S. In addition, unprecedented air deals are available. In some instances, fares have dropped by 42 percent when compared with the previous year.”

Tourism Australia’s promotion of the country recently shifted into high gear to attract what Hudson says is “our target market: the experience seeker.”

According to Hudson, this market has “proven to be more resilient during the current [economic] climate, especially the sub-segment markets of youth and luxury. Both markets remain strong and this year Tourism Australia has focused on the main draw cards for the North American market in our campaigns.”

The first—”Australia Now”—offers what Hudson calls “experience seekers” the type of “moments and memories that people are passionate about now and which Australia delivers so well: nature-and-adventure and food-and-wine.”

On top of that, Tourism Australia will use its website (australia.com) in conjunction with agent training, public relations and media, to increase the knowledge of nature, adventure and food-and-wine vacations and their “value proposition” in its campaign.

“I believe that consumers want unique, authentic and immersive experiences, the very experiences that our country excels at delivering” says Hudson. “And most consumers usually need an expert to put these high yielding trips together. Australia is a great destination for higher sales volumes with most trips averaging $5,000.”

This month, Tourism Australia partnered with Swain Tours to start a website (australia.com/now) detailing many exciting travel offers to sell additional ideas for food-and-wine and nature-and-adventure tours.

Banking on the allure Australia has on the young and fully aware of the fact that the country is a great place in which to travel and work, the tourism entity also launched this month—along with V Australia and STA Travel—a program inviting visitors aged 18 to 30 to come “work and play” in Australia with a special, 1-year work and holiday visa.

“Given the current economic state of the U.S. and the bleak job market,” says Hudson, “the time to look beyond their borders for that first job is now. We are encouraging North American youths, once college ends and before real life begins, to visit Australia for a different type of spring break.”

He adds that travel agents should find this program profitable because, “once the kids are Down Under, there are many opportunities to get their family and friends to visit.”

What about prospective visitors not interested in food-and-wine or a year’s stay working in Australia? No worries, mate.

Tourism Australia features a very popular program consisting of a 1-week “walkabout” promoting Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane as compelling alternatives to Europe.

Visitors have the option to explore Sydney’s top-notch restaurants, exquisite beaches and wineries; or Melbourne’s Victorian flair, sprawling gardens, quaint streets and art galleries; and maybe Brisbane’s beaches and tropical atmosphere, for as low as $798 roundtrip from either Los Angeles or San Francisco.