We are proud to have partnered with Tourism Australia to produce this special edition of Australian Traveller, aimed squarely at helping get the country’s tourism industry back on the road to recovery and you, our readers, back out on the road doing what you do best.
Here, Tourism Australia’s managing director Phillipa Harrison talks us through the Holiday Here This Year campaign that we’ve all so passionately got behind and shares her outlook for domestic travel in the months ahead.
Can you give us some background As to how Tourism Australia got ‘Holiday Here This Year’ up and running so quickly in response to the bushfires?
The impact of the summer bushfires was immediate and devastating for the affected communities, and then there were other tourism destinations that were not directly impacted but felt the impacts of a downturn in visitation.
The announcement of an initial $76 million tourism recovery package by the Prime Minister on 19 January 2020, as part of the Australian Government’s National Bushfire Recovery Fund, resulted in $61 million in funding being allocated to Tourism Australia for specific recovery activities. This included $20 million for a national domestic campaign in partnership with the states and territories, which was launched on 23 January 2020.
The ‘Holiday Here This Year’ domestic campaign has been built from the ground up to encourage Australians to get out and see this beautiful country of ours and to explore what’s on our doorstep. Whether it’s taking a drive up the coast, heading inland, or flying across this vast and beautiful land as travel resumes.
What new opportunities does the current world situation as it relates to travel (closed international borders, reduced airline capacity etc.) present here in Australia?
Tourism Australia’s consumer research shows that over 60 per cent of Aussies are keen to travel around Australia once restrictions ease, which is why we are asking people to start dreaming about their next domestic trip now.
We know that Australians took nearly 10 million overseas trips last year, spending $65 billion. With domestic travel restrictions set to lift before international restrictions, there is a real opportunity to keep valuable tourism dollars in Australia, by showcasing the many wonderful things that exist in our own backyard.
How do you think people’s travel behaviours might change as a result of the last 10 months?
After spending more time at home, we’ll no doubt see a lot of pent-up desire for travel, with people wanting to get out and about more and reconnect by exploring their own backyard.
No doubt there will be a lot of Australians jumping into their cars or taking flights where and when they can to explore this vast and beautiful country of ours. Restrictions being gradually lifted will no doubt see travel restart with a focus on day trips and short overnight trips closer to home before exploring further with interstate travel and longer domestic trips.
Is Tourism Australia seeing a trend towards people choosing to travel more consciously after the bushfires and the links that were made during that time to climate change?
Following the summer bushfires, we saw an immediate outpouring of support from across Australia to help affected communities get back on their feet. Many Australians recognised the economic importance of tourism to responsibly support recovery as communities were ready to once again welcome visitors. There was conscious and considerable support too for our tourism operators who played an important role in the recovery of our wildlife.
Unfortunately, just as recovery was underway from the bushfires we saw travel disrupted due to COVID-19. However, as recovery from these challenging times begins, we anticipate that the health and wellbeing of our people and natural tourism attractions will be factors of consideration for many travellers once they start travelling again.
What emerging destinations in Australia are you particularly excited about?
In Australia we have the luxury of being spoilt for choice when it comes to holiday destinations to choose from, however, there are a few closer-to-home ones that I am particularly excited about at the moment.
Lennox Head on the NSW North Coast is a great coastal holiday destination; it is pretty much the quieter cousin of Byron Bay. Then there is Narooma on the NSW South Coast, another great coastal destination, where you can literally eat oysters fresh from a boat!
Another special place is Lord Howe Island. While it is not necessarily an emerging destination, it is a place that I think more Australians will rediscover.
Are there any exciting new products/operators in the industry that people should know about?
Later this year, a first of its kind in the southern hemisphere underwater art museum will open on the Great Barrier Reef. While the Reef is already spectacular in its own right, the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA), which is essentially a submerged art museum, sets out to highlight reef conservation, restoration and education on a global scale.
Set to become a permanent (and permanent) attraction for the Queensland coast with four different sites from Townsville out to John Brewer Reef, it will no doubt further enhance the experience for visitors to the region. (Each artwork or site will tell stories of our land, people and the environment. Some sites will only be accessible to divers, but one will also be viewable from the shore, meaning all visitors to Townsville will be able to experience MOUA).
The planned opening for the MOUA had to be rescheduled due to COVID-19 so it will be really exciting when it finally gets to open in the second half of this year.
What do you think are the most underrated destinations/ experiences that travellers should pay attention to?
There are a few Australian destinations and regions that rank in the top 30 most visited destinations by international tourists, but do not rank in the top 30 most visited by Australians. The Whitsundays and the Fraser Coast in Queensland, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and Darwin in the Northern Territory, the Coral Coast in Western Australia and Launceston in Tasmania are among this list.
Each of these destinations are incredible in their own right and might just be the overlooked hidden gems for Australians. Whether it’s swimming with whale sharks, taking a dip in crystal clear waters or strolling secluded islands; enjoying world-class food and drink; and of course, journeying to the spiritual heart of Australia – Uluru, which is so powerful and awe inspiring.