Australian Institute of Company Directors – Geoff Dixon Speech

2012-08-16 — / — Thank you, it is always nice to be back in Tasmania.

I have been asked to speak to you today as Chairman of Tourism Australia, an organisation of some 220+ people with the responsibility for marketing Australia both within Australia and overseas.

Our main role is internationally and we have offices and representatives in some 16 countries….all geared to showcase Australia to the world!

Tourism is Australia’s leading services export industry….it is also an industry that is undergoing rapid and far-reaching change.

Change, of course, is something that all Australian businesses, institutions and, indeed, individuals, are experiencing on a daily basis.

We see it all around us in manufacturing, particularly in automobiles, the media, financial services – the list is endless.

In tourism the change has been more rapid and more recent than most – brought on by the effects of the global financial crisis and the sharp appreciation in the past two years of the Australian dollar.

All of a sudden in 2008, and it was very sudden, the economies of key traditional tourism markets – the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe – went into meltdown and so did their tourism numbers to Australia.

At about the same time, and fortunately so for us, the industrial growth in many economies across Asia was fuelling employment and a new middle class with the means and desire to travel.

Taking the opportunities, and meeting the challenges, of this transition from far-flung Western markets to nearby Eastern markets is central to the strategies being now deployed by Tourism Australia and state and territory tourism authorities.

Tourism in Australia is a critically important A$96 billion industry.  In Tasmania the industry represents, directly and indirectly, 8 per cent of the gross state product, makes an annual economic contribution of A$2 billion and supports around 13.5 per cent of your state’s workforce, both direct and indirect.

There is no other Australian state where tourism plays a more vital role – which makes the task of successfully embracing the new and growing markets of Asia so necessary.

And growing they are!

China is now Australia’s largest tourism export market in terms of economic value, up to A$4 billion in annual expenditure, and is both our highest yielding and fastest growing.

The latest international visitor data showed a record for Chinese visitors into Australia – rising up to 20 per cent for the month and delivering over 583,000 annual visitor arrivals!

Amazingly, China will soon overtake the United Kingdom as our second largest inbound visitor market by volume.

The Asian markets are front and centre for Tourism Australia, led by China, but also including Japan, South Korea, and across South East Asia to Singapore, Malaysia and the ever emerging India and Indonesia.

These markets last year delivered 2.4 million of the 5.9 million visitors to Australia.

So we are now very engaged with Asia. But engaging more with our region does not mean we abandon our more traditional markets and I want to assure you Tourism Australia still has a significant focus on a balanced portfolio including the UK, the USA and Western Europe.

These are still very important countries and regions, particularly for Tasmania, and constitute a large portion of your international visitors.

However, as it could be some years before they recover from their current problems, we must take advantage of what we have now, and what Tasmania has to offer is already strategically well placed for the changes we are experiencing in our visitor mix.

I say this because Tasmania has in abundance what international visitors to Australia, and particularly those from China and arguably many Australians themselves, most desire in their travel.

These attributes include:

  • A pristine, world class natural environment that is also highly accessible;
  • Great food, wine and cuisine;
  • Clean climate including water, skies and air;
  • Friendly and open hospitality; and
  • More choice and breadth in accommodation including high end luxury or unique overnight experiences.

What I just outlined is not just our view, it is based on Tourism Australia’s own deep and ongoing research into traveller behaviour – research that we are using to drive our Tourism 2020 Strategy.

That strategy seeks to double overnight tourism expenditure to up to A$140 billion annually. That is not an easy task, but our most recent figures show around A$77 billion in annualised overnight expenditure.

As a result of these latest figures, we are optimistic in achieving this goal, and our optimism is based on the fact that Australia measures up very well on the global tourism stage.

The latest United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) figures for tourism performance identify Australia as 42nd for total arrivals, which simply reflects the tyranny of distance and our island status.

A mass international visitor destination Australia will never become!

However, on key expenditure measures we continue to rank amongst the highest globally.

Australia is eighth overall for total tourism receipts and we are number one amongst all nations for average spend per visitor.

The take-out from this is that in the higher cost reality of Australia today, our unique natural experiences must be accompanied by first class service and first class facilities and products and the very best in marketing and sales.

Tourism Australia has a range of strategies to back these needs, and I will outline a few now.

  1. The next phase of our global campaign – There’s nothing like Australia;
  2. Clever, effective use of digital media;
  3. Encouraging further investment in tourism;
  4. Facilitating further aviation access, and;
  5. Australia speaking with one voice in our sales promotions.

There’s nothing like Australia

Tourism Australia launched the latest phase of our global marketing campaign, There’s nothing like Australia, in June. The campaign is a strategy in a line and was born from two insights:

Firstly that the world travels to experience difference.

And secondly, that word of mouth and advocacy are the most powerful drivers in travel decision making.

There’s nothing like Australia has screened in 25 countries in 17 different languages and has attracted 180 commercial partners, including major airlines, our state, territory and regional tourism authorities, including Tourism Tasmania, and major travel companies and wholesalers.

The first phase of the campaign in 2010 drew encouraging responses – in particular from audiences in high growth markets, including China, where we continue to be the most desired long haul destination for Chinese international travellers based on leading research by GfK bluemoon in March this year.

The second and current stage of the campaign targets consumers by directly highlighting the best of Australia, including Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula, with the wonderful Saffire resort featuring prominently in the television commercial and digital film content.

The campaign focuses on some of our best hotels and luxury lodge facilities, our food and our world acclaimed wines, plus our magnificent natural wonders….and most encouragingly the research house Celsius says it has been amongst the highest ranked commercials ever tested inside China!

For the Australian tourism industry generally, this is the most integrated, the most modular and the most partnership friendly campaign tourism Australia has ever launched.

Leadership in digital

The new marketing features very clever use of digital media – which is tourism’s new competitive battle ground….and as a result There’s nothing like Australia has digital media at its core.

Tourism and travel naturally occupy more consumer head space than other categories, and the battle for relevance is increasingly through mobile phones and tablet devices….and even if I say so myself our latest There’s nothing like Australia app for tablets is first class!

Our website, now attracts 16 million annual unique visitors linking them to Australia and to tourism experiences and products throughout the country.

Our domestic campaign activity has now created tens of thousands of digital photographs by travellers of why There is nothing like Australia, telling their own story of their experiences.

Proudly, Tourism Australia has the world’s largest destination page on Facebook (, with more than 3.3 million fans.

In another global first, last week we launched an innovative Facebook app, merging the best of Google maps and Facebook technology to create a unique travel planning tool….and critically in markets across Asia we are also successfully tapping into huge social media sites, such as weibo.comRenren and Tudou in China and a multitude of others across the region.

New tourism investment

It will not surprise you, but new infrastructure is needed for tourism throughout Australia – infrastructure that will excite and provide quality and entertaining experiences.

One of the best recent examples in Australia of this is here in Tasmania with MONA attracting close to 600,000 annualised visitors, including high interstate and international visitor numbers.

Tourism Australia is now working in partnership with Austrade to lure more overseas investment, as well as facilitating local investors, for hotel, resort, lodge and tourism infrastructure developments in every state and territory.

Around 80 major projects are now on the table and featured in a new publication “Australian Tourism Investment Guide”, which was launched in May this year.

A number of the successful ventures sought are currently here in Tasmania, agreed by the State Government, and federally by Austrade and Tourism Australia, as investment ready opportunities.

They include, amongst others:

  • The proposed Pumphouse Point development at Lake St Clair, Cradle Mountain; and
  • The Kangaroo Bay Special Development Zone at Bellerive, here in Hobart.

Much of the infrastructure needed to achieve our 2020 goals involves more beds in our capital cities and, not more, but better beds for regional area. Lack of beds, or their quality and positioning, is a real constraint on what we can offer travellers.

Research by Access Economics in 2010 estimated that hotel shortages in Perth resulted in a loss of around 330,000 visitor nights between 2006-2007 and 2008-09, resulting in a loss of tourism exports estimated at A$213 million.

Under the Tourism 2020 Strategy it is estimated that at least 40,000 new beds are needed throughout Australia!

Aviation access

I am sure I do not need to tell anyone in this room how vital aviation access is to Australia, and to Tasmania!

Tourism Australia has always had strong and growing partnerships with domestic and international airlines – and those partnerships are just as important as they were 20 years ago.

We now have 14 major agreements with airlines, all aimed at marketing Australia and increasing capacity, and with an emphasis on those airlines that provide a real source of potential tourists.

Getting international flights to Tasmania is extremely difficult, as you would understand, but hopefully the current fierce competition in the domestic market and the announced increased flights by Qantas Group and Virgin will help a difficult situation.

Speaking with one voice

This brings me to the final issue I want to raise today and that is the need for us, as a country, to present a uniform, single message about Australia to people in other countries.

This is a theme I have consistently raised during my chairmanship of Tourism Australia.

There are many, many voices promoting Australia internationally….and they include Tourism Australia, the Australian Government, the States and the Territories, the airlines and private companies.

All have legitimate messages, but also all have finite resources to spend in an increasingly cluttered market.

In China, for example, there are now over 130 countries that have approved destination status (ADS) compared with three when Australia gained ADS twelve years ago.

On visits to China, India and most recently Indonesia, both Andrew McEvoy, the Managing Director of Tourism Australia, and I were told point-blank that Australia spoke with too many voices.

Tellingly, most of those voices did not have sufficient resources to make a real impact!

To speak collectively about Australia through stronger and singular joint Federal and State Government backed foundation campaigns will, without a doubt, make our marketing much more effective.

Already close co-operation exists between Tourism Australia and the states and territories in our most critical tourism markets where we sell ourselves….and increasingly this will have a real focus on China and our own region, where the time zones are good and where the Australian experience is growing in appreciation.

Tasmania’s recent year on year growth in international visitors is testimony that this state has real appeal to our new markets.

Similar to what is happening nationally, more Chinese citizens, including from Hong Kong, are now visiting Tasmania than from Tasmania’s traditional leading market, the United Kingdom.

As I said earlier Tasmania, as a destination to both domestic and overseas travellers, can satisfy the primary and evolving needs for why people travel to and throughout Australia.

They are the rational views of cleanliness, safety, the air, sky and water, and the friendly and welcoming people.

And they are the emotional needs where people’s perception of Australia is based on:

  • Our unsurpassed natural beauty;
  • Our outstanding wine and food; and
  • Our wonders – among them the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and yes, Wineglass Bay and Freycinet Peninsula, where I holidayed last year.

Tasmania, of course, has an abundance of both the rational and emotional, and I am confident that Tourism Australia and Tourism Tasmania, and our other partners, can use these attributes to entice more and more of our affluent near neighbours to pay us a visit!!

Thank you!


Geoff Dixon, Chairman, Tourism Australia