Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tourism Australia steps up campaign to repair image problem with India after damage from student bashings

By Business editor Peter Ryan
Tourism Australia will today step up its campaign to target and attract high spending visitors from India.

The move is designed to capture the subcontinent's lucrative tourism market which has been damaged by violent attacks on Indian students in recent years.

Repairing Australia's image problem with India is just one challenge on top of concerns about outdated properties in and an advertising strategy that is failing to make an impact in booming Asia.

Tourism Australia's managing director Andrew McEvoy has told AM the Indian image problem needed to be countered to achieve the aim of tripling the number of visitors by 2020.

Here's my interview with Andrew McEvoy broadcast on this morning's edition of AM.

"It's worth about $800-$820 million to the Australian economy now. There's probably around 145,000 Indians who are coming - that's including students and holidays, visiting friends and relatives, and business," Mr McEvoy said.

"We think by 2020 that could almost triple to about $2.4 billion at its best and that would mean there'd be 400,000 Indians coming to our country and high-yielding businesses and a mix again of education, holiday, business and visiting friends and relatives."

Mr McEvoy said he was working with Australia's High Commission in India to rebuild confidence and to attract "high yield" tourists.

"We took a view that we should look at India through the eyes of Indians whom we market over them. So we've used an MTV Bollywood couple who had their honeymoon in Australia as sort of the front people of our advertising. We've done a lot of work to rebuild the image and I think the High Commission has done a great job over there. So we're certainly back on track and there are big opportunities to come."

Mr McEvoy and Tourism Australia's chairman Geoff Dixon will use the Australian Tourism Directions conference in Canberra today to counter recent claims that Australia is viewed as the "world's dumb blonde" of tourism - attractive, but shallow and one dimensional.

" I think people like Geoff and I do take offence at that because Australia's reputation and image is outstanding and one thing that is not broken is probably the appeal of the destination.

The thing we've got to work harder on is, have we got to the right product mix in Australia, are we good enough in terms of quality of service and have we got the access to the products through aviation, cruise shipping and that sort of stuff," Mr McEvoy said.

Today's conference will also deal with criticisms that Tourism Australia's advertising and marketing message needs more clarity, given campaigns by state and territory bodies on top of the national agency.

Mr McEvoy concedes there is a communication problem.

"We are a bit inconsistent in the way we market our country offshore. We do often speak with too many voices and there are plenty of people representing our interests and we've just got to get that a bit more united, a bit more consistent."

Tourism Australia is also working to counter feedback about out-dated properties in Austraia, poor customer service and in some cases unexciting shopping.

Mr McEvoy refutes the criticisms but believes there is room for improvement.

"Look, I think as an industry we're pretty good at talking ourselves down. I would argue that products and experiences in Australia are massively appealing to a global consumer. Can we improve? Always. But I think that's happening and I think that the Australian industry is growing. Capital cities are going strong and I think our experience does stack up really, really well."

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