Will TA ’s New cam­paign bear Fruit?

Travel Bulletin - - STATE OF THE INDUSTRY - Ian Mcma­hon’s per­spec­tive

There are two con­flict­ing the­o­ries about what stim­u­lates tourism growth. Para­dox­i­cally, both may be about to be proved right. Or wrong, as the case may be. The first the­ory is pos­tu­lated by the bean coun­ters; the se­cond is ad­vanced by the mar­keters. The first the­ory, of­ten es­poused by the man­darins of Trea­sury, is that there is no need for lav­ish ex­pen­di­ture on tourism pro­mo­tion be­cause tourism flows – both in­bound and out­bound – are gov­erned es­sen­tially by the value of the Aus­tralian dol­lar. It is a view that the tourism in­dus­try has been forced to re­fute reg­u­larly over the years dur­ing a suc­ces­sion of con­tro­ver­sies over the level of govern­ment fund­ing for Tourism Aus­tralia (TA). For my money, this the­ory has been defini­tively dis­proved by re­cent his­tory. De­spite the surg­ing strength of the Aus­tralian dol­lar, the in­dus­try’s mar­ket­ing strate­gies have en­sured that in­bound num­bers con­tin­ued to rise steadily. The op­po­site the­ory main­tains that, in a world where gov­ern­ments ev­ery­where are plough­ing huge sums into at­tract­ing vis­i­tors, Aus­tralia must bud­get ad­e­quate funds for cost-ef­fec­tive desti­na­tion mar­ket­ing if it is to re­tain, let alone grow, its share of lu­cra­tive global tourism flows. The good news is that the Fed­eral Govern­ment has pro­vided $40 mil­lion for a new, Chris Hemsworth-voiced, aquat­i­cal­lythemed global cam­paign. It is now be­ing rolled out in ma­jor source mar­kets around the world. And this is oc­cur­ring at a time when the Aus­tralian dol­lar has dropped from pre­vi­ous highs around par­ity with the USD to around US70 cents. With this align­ment of the stars, surely we can ex­pect a tur­bocharged boost to in­bound num­bers. But what if the an­tic­i­pated growth does not oc­cur? What if the in­dus­try is left ask­ing in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers “where the bloody hell are you?” – be­cause what­ever the the­o­rists say, nei­ther the value of the cur­rency nor the level of mar­ket­ing will ex­clu­sively de­ter­mine in­bound tourism num­bers. For ex­am­ple the Fed­eral Govern­ment’s plans to abol­ish the tax free thresh­old for work­ing hol­i­day back­pack­ers has the po­ten­tial to un­der­mine this lu­cra­tive mar­ket sec­tor. A case of cut­ting off your nose to spite your face. The Govern­ment should note Qan­tas’ re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence. A dummy spit by the air­line’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Alan Joyce saw the car­rier with­draw from its po­si­tion as TA’S “go to” air­line. Hap­pily, the two par­ties have now kissed and made up. But Qan­tas won’t be in the same dom­i­nant po­si­tion it was pre­vi­ously. Ri­vals have been able to move in and ce­ment new re­la­tion­ships with TA. That’s what hap­pens when you cut off your nose to spite your face.

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