Confidence among travellers is positive and growing, but snap border closures continue to hamper the domestic tourism industry, leading travel and tourism experts told Are Media’s inaugural insight series, TRENDtalks.
The panel discussion, held today and hosted by Gourmet Traveller editor Joanna Hunkin, examined the issues and trends facing marketers in the post-COVID-19 world. It was introduced by Stuart Ayers, the NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney.
Robert Dougan, executive general manager, strategy and research at Tourism Australia said that the organisation’s tracking showed increased consumer confidence among travellers and a wider global perception that Australia is a safer place to travel to since the pandemic started.
“From a traveller perception point of view, it’s really positive,” Dougan said. “There are areas in Australia and parts of the sector that are doing really well …You can see a change in the tone of the media and as that starts to get more positive, I think it will end up with more security around people actually booking… perceptions will start shifting wallets.”
Dougan said domestic border closures, while brought in place to keep Australians safe, had slowed down the recovery of tourism.
“And we see in our search and forward booking data that recovery is slower every time we see a closure, so I’m hoping that vaccines get rid of that problem and we start to see money follow into the industry after that.”
Andrew Waddel, general manager Australia at Tourism New Zealand, echoed the sentiment.
“We are really seeing confidence grow,” he said. “Consumers and travellers are a lot more comfortable with COVID, but it’s the snap border closers that will continue to be a concern.
“If we are able to get beyond that and build it into the consideration when planning a holiday, I think we’ll see quite a fast return.”
Caddie Marshall, general manager for Orange360, the regional tourism body representing Orange and its surrounds, told the virtual panel that tourism to the city had boomed since COVID restrictions were relaxed.
“We had spent the last two years focused on the 28 to 34-year-old market,” Marshall said.
“What we have seen is a return to our more traditional market of 50 plus. They are looking for high end immersive experiences and they are willing to pay.”
Anthony Laver, group GM, sales and marketing at Scenic Tours said there was also a change in the types of experiences travellers were looking for.
“There is a shift away from ‘big is better’. People now want to go to areas that not a lot of people go to and have more engaging, discovery experiences,” he said. “The high-end luxury market is evolving to the very intimate, customised, immersive experience.”
While domestic travel is likely to remain the main vacation option for most Australians in the coming year, Tourism Australia’s Dougan said it would not replace the money spent by international tourists.
“There is only so much demand we can get from the domestic audience, so for travelling Aussies to make up for the international expenditure they’d have to take about another four trips a year,” he said.
“Which is a lot. The industry is going to have to focus on driving yield where we can. Getting them to spend more while they are in destination and on experiences.”
Gourmet Traveller editor Joanna Hunkin added that the publication is seeing “a huge appetite” among its audience for trusted, curated travel advice.
“They are eager to explore the best Australia has to offer and are looking to us to share those premium experiences,” she said. “They want to know where to eat, drink, stay and play and are looking to us, more than ever, to guide them.”
Jane Waterhouse, general manager, brands and commercial solutions at Are Media said: “We know 80 per cent of all travel decisions are made or influenced by a woman, so it’s important to know what she’s thinking.
“Our HerPulse research shows around half of all women are very optimistic about travel, with 74 per cent thinking local, but there is still a third that are dreaming global. If 2020 was the year of staying in for women, 2021 is the year of getting out.
“Are Media is committed to providing our commercial partners with the latest trends, research and insights on women of all ages and we’re delighted to have launched TRENDtalks, bringing together marketing experts to shine a light on specific categories with travel being our first.”
The full TRENDtalks travel panel can be viewed here.
Pictured (L to R): Andrew Waddel, general manager Australia at Tourism New Zealand; Jane Waterhouse, general manager, brands and commercial solutions, Are Media; Anthony Laver, group GM, sales and marketing at Scenic Tours; Caddie Marshall, general manager for Orange360; Robert Dougan, executive general manager, strategy and research at Tourism Australia; and Joanna Hunkin, Gourmet Traveller editor
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