There was an unusually upbeat mood at the 2011 Adventure and Backpacker Industry Conference in Sydney’s Darling Harbour this week. More than 200 delegates from all over Australia, New Zealand and Fiji gathered at Dockside in Cockle Bay Wharf to engage with expert insights from quality speakers on wide range of topics.
New South Wales tourism minister George Souris opened the event with a clear focus on the State Government’s commitment to growing the youth travel segment, a sentiment welcomed by NSW and other Australian operators.
“The youth leisure segment has the potential to spend more than any other segment due to their longer length of stay,” Souris said.
“We want to encourage more international youth holiday makers to come to NSW to work, study and play.”
Maverick economist Clifford Bennett from Empire Economics gave industry operators a glass half full view of the prospects for backpacker growth in Australia, pointing not to the US or Europe but to Asia as the market with the most potential for tourism down under.
“If Australia can get Asia backpacking, operators will be unable to keep up with the demand,” Bennett said.
“The biggest opportunities for Australian operators lie not in the US or Europe, but with the two billion strong Asian population to the North.
“The Chinese love everything Western, they lap it up, can’t get enough of it,” Bennett said.
“It’s only a matter of time until they discover that backpacking is cool – and Australia will see a tremendous boom.”
Bennett said predictions of a global recession post 2008 was “complete nonsense, absolute fiction,” blaming the US and European media for driving the view that if the US sneezes the world catches cold.
“The reality on the ground is way better than the headlines – the media is just selling fear, it’s detached from reality.”
Adam Ferrier, Consumer Psychologist, Founding Partner at Naked Communications and regular on Aussie advertising panel show The Gruen Transfer gave delegates an insight into travellers’ minds with a slick presentation on how smart marketing, particularly through social media, can change behaviours.
He cited a number of Naked produced ads including one about a small town called Speed in Victoria’s north west that sought Facebook likes to change its name to “Speed Kills” in an effort to slow down drivers on country roads. The campaign achieved phenomenal coverage and won the backing of more than 30,000 Facebook users.
Question Time at the Conference gave operators the chance to grill an expert panel which included Tourism Australia’s Nick Baker, Traveltrends’ founder Martin Kelly and Greg Zammit from Adventure Tours Australia.
Nick Baker said he had confidence in the longevity of Tourism Australia’s new ‘There’s Nothing Like Australia’ campaign which launched last year and which called on Australians themselves to tell the world about their country.
“Australia remains an extraordinarily aspirational destination”, said Baker.
“People know Australia, and so they see it as familiar, we need to be better at communicating new product and new experiences and that’s at the heart of the ‘Nothing Like Australia’ campaign.
“By matching ‘Country’ with ‘People’ we have an opportunity to sell Australia’s unique experiences.”