Tourism Australia will put the UK travel trade at the centre of its efforts to rebuild confidence in the country’s tourism once the bushfires that have swept across parts of the nation have been brought under control.
The tourist board has created new online resources for agents to help them keep abreast of developments down under and allay fears among clients or those preparing to travel to Australia.
Sally Cope, Tourism Australia regional general manager UK, confirmed to TTG the organisation would “kick-start” its Kylie-fronted Matesong campaign, launched on Christmas day, “when the time is right” after it was paused on account of the fires.
Cope said while Matesong would be integral to Tourism Australia’s promotional activity after it was warmly received over the festive period, the tourist board’s priority was to provide the trade with as much factual information as possible to ensure agents are well-equipped to deal with enquiries about the bushfires and encourage bookings.
“Our hearts go out too everyone in those communities that have been impacted,” said Cope, adding Tourism Australia would play a key role in supporting their recovery through tourism.
New portals have gone live on websites australia.com; tourism.australia.com; and aussiespecialist.com, Tourism Australia’s agent training programme, offering up-to-date information on the bushfires broken down by state with direct links to regional resources, such as updates from local fire and rescue forces, tourism boards and state authorities, as well as bushfire safety information.
Cope said the issues around the fires were twofold. “There are those people travelling right now, and we are working with state tourism offices to provide them detailed, up-to-date information on key locations,” she said.
“Looking ahead, tourism will become an important part of the country’s recovery. The UK market is particularly important to Australia; more than 700,000 travellers visit from the UK every year and they get quite widely distributed, supporting regional communities.
“Right now, it’s too early to measure the impact of the fires on tourism from the UK. There doesn’t appear to have been a lot of cancellations, and we’ve heard some good tales of people being able to adapt itineraries rather than cancel.”
Cope said it was vital to bear in mind the typically long, six- to 12-month lead-in time on UK bookings: “We must have half an eye on the future with that lead time. The information on our websites is constantly being updated. It’s a good reference point for agents to check individual aspects of clients’ itineraries.”
Cope said that even in the midst of the bushfires, Australia’s travel and tourism sector had shown its camaraderie.
She cited the plight of James and Hayley Baillie, owners of Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island. The lodge was destroyed when the bushfires, as they put it, “spread with speed and ferocity”.
The couple have already sought to relocate staff to different roles within the group, while other tourism firms have approached the business to offer jobs. The Baillies have also committed to rebuilding the lodge and taking a leading role in rebuilding tourism on Kangaroo Island.
“It speaks of the resilience we have in our industry in Australia,” said Cope. “They will be determined to come back as soon as possible.”
Cope added Tourism Australia would this year seek to host a new fam programme for agents so they can see the recovery efforts and new developments for themselves, while product leads are invited to take part in the Australian Tourism Exchange in May.