SYDNEY — Tourism is back in Australia. And they’re celebrating in a big way.
Some 1,100 travel sellers and buyers from around the world are in Sydney this week to mark the first in-person Australian Tourism Exchange since the start of the pandemic. It’s the 42nd version of the exchange, and Canadians are front and centre.
Canada is one of Australia’s key 15 markets, and Tourism Australia will launch a major marketing campaign in Canada this year. It’s their first such program in the Canadian market in some time, said Philippa Harrison, managing director, Tourism Australia.
“Canadians have a similar propensity for travel as Aussies,” she said.
Australia opened fully for visitors only about 10 weeks ago, and Harrison said she expects a record number of fam trips for the travel trade in the coming months.
Tourism Australia officials told Travelweek that, for the week ending May 1, inbound traffic from Canada was up 45% from the same week in 2019. For the week ending April 3 it was up 67%, possibly due to an influx of family and friends who had been kept from visiting for more than two years.
Officials said they expect a significant spike in traffic in the fall and winter months for the northern hemisphere.
Air Canada is flying direct from Vancouver to Sydney seven days a week right now, and they’ll increase that to 10 per week in June. Air Canada will launch four direct flights from YVR to Brisbane per week on July 1, a month earlier than first expected, with four flights per week on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
A recent survey found that 75% of residents in Australia’s key markets feel it’s safe to take a trip down under.
“The world now believes there’s never been a safer time to visit,” Harrison said.
Customers are travelling much closer to their booking dates than they used to, Harrison said. They’re also looking for longer trips and more luxurious holidays.
“Visitors don’t want discount, they want experience,” she said before adding some words of advice for travel advisors. “Don’t go small,” she said. “Go big.”
Tourism Australia’s key themes for travel this year include sustainability, family travel, nature, digital nomads and aboriginal/indigenous tourism.
“It’s important we tell our indigenous story well. It’s integrated into absolutely everything we do,” Harrison said.
Michelle Streicher of Kingston, ON, who runs South Pacific Journeys, was one of the Canadian travel agents on hand in the massive meeting room at the International Convention Centre in Sydney. She’s one of a handful of Premier Australia Specialists in Canada, and the only Premier Australia Specialist who’s based in the Toronto-Montreal-Otttawa corridor.
“It’s great to get on a plane again and to meet with what I call my travel industry family,” she said. “I’m so relieved and thankful. And optimistic.”
Streicher said her phone started ringing and her email in-box was inundated with travel requests as soon as the Canadian government eased testing requirements for arriving passengers.
“There’s great optimism here,” said Ernst Flach, a Vancouver resident who represents South Australia for Wagstaff Worldwide public relations. “There’s a real joy in seeing people again.
“You hear people grumble about things at some events, but there’s absolutely no complaints here,” he said with a smile.
Flach said the Canadian market is important to South Australia because Canadians tend to branch out more than Americans and seek places away from Sydney, Melbourne and the state of Queensland, home to Brisbane, Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. They also stay longer in the country, “and we have the same sense of humour as Australians.”
Paul Larcher, an account director at VoX International who handles the Tourism Australia account for the Canadian trade, said he’s very busy this week.
“It’s great to be meeting in person again and sharing what’s new and great in Australia,” he said. “Things are very positive, and very upbeat.”
Larcher said the increase in Air Canada service shows Canadians are eager to travel Down Under.
A 15-year resident of New South Wales, Streicher said she loves Australian cities but recommends Canadians get out and explore “off the beaten path” areas, including Tasmania and Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
Media gathered here (roughly 75 journalists from Canada and around the world) were treated to a ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony performed by aboriginal peoples in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Monday.
Monday night featured a smashing reception for more than 1,100 trade and media members in The Rocks district of Sydney. Agents, tour operators and other guests nibbled on fresh seafood and Asian noodles and sipped Australian wine across the harbour from the Sydney Opera House, which was lit up by a nearly full moon under warm, summer-like skies.
The 550 international buyers attending ATE Live travelled from 20 countries and included 72 luxury buyers and 21 specialist buyers operating across luxury, walks, wine, fishing and golf. Buyer companies include wholesalers, retail travel agencies, inbound tour operators, destination management companies, online travel agencies, online travel booking platforms and tour operators.
Tourism Australia chairman Michael Issenberg said there is still work to do, but that the industry is “well and truly” back on its feet. Having a full tourism exchange in the country’s most iconic city is “absolutely fantastic,” he said.
More than 100 new or totally refurbished hotels have been unveiled across the country in the last two years, with 12,000 new rooms, Harrison said.
There also are dozens of new tourism products across the country, ranging from great walks in Tasmania to cruise and adventure experiences in Western Australia. Western Australia is one-third the area of the entire country and has just 2.7 million residents; two million of them in the vibrant city of Perth.
ATE Live runs May 15 – 18. For those unable to attend the live event, ATE 2022 Online runs May 24 to 26. More information is here.