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Synergy in Sydney

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ATE 2013 was memorable in so many different aspects. Firstly, it was the last ATE to be held at the Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre (SECC) in Darling Harbour because Sydney is getting itself a brand new state-of-the-art exhibition and convention centre. The Sydney International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct (SICCEP) which spans a 20 hectare precinct at Darling Harbour and includes a 900-room hotel is due to open in late 2016.

This is also the first time that the event was held as a single global event with both Eastern and Western buyers and sellers attending at the same time across four days of appointments. This year will also be remembered as the year ATE became a paperless event with e-connect Australia, a new online service for sellers to share brochures, marketing collateral and news with buyers, and ATE Daily, the daily news incorporated into the e-connect daily summary.

A business symphony

Nearly 725 buyer delegates representing 39 countries (including India with 17 delegates) attended Tourism Australia’s premier tourism trade event held in a different host city every year. This year’s host state was Destination New South Wales (NSW). Against the backdrop of the iconic Sydney Opera House and The Harbour Bridge, 1,500 Australian sellers from 470 companies (including 49 new ones) showcased their products and became partners in growing the value of the country’s tourism industry. Around 50,000 scheduled business appointments were held between buyers and sellers with an equal number of informal meetings taking place across 25,000 sq metres of exhibition space.

Speaking at the launch, Andrew McEvoy, managing director, Tourism Australia, stated, “According to the Tourism Australia 2020 Vision Plan drawn up three years ago, the aim was to double visitor expenditure to $97 billion by 2020. We are on track for this. In fact we are now looking to reach $115 – 120 billion by 2020. As a destination Australia ranks first in spend per visitor. It is not a high volume but a high value destination. China went past UK and it is now our biggest market and a high value market worth $4.2 billion to Australia. India too went past Germany to get into the top 10. We work with 20 airline partners in 17 key markets. Our biggest strengths are world class nature, safe environment and food and wine, only behind France and Italy.” He added that the country would need more beds mostly in the capital cities for which Tourism Australia was working with Austrade. “Word of mouth is all powerful. The world travels to experience differences. The two campaigns ‘There’s Nothing like Australia ‘ and The Best Jobs in the World’ helped not just in creating awareness about the destination but also enabled us to commercialise it,” he said.

He also observed that there was a general shift from west to east in terms of arrivals but he again stressed that traditional markets remained critical, particularly for regional Australia. McEvoy played down concerns that the high Australian dollar was impacting visitor arrivals. “The dollar is the dollar, there is nothing we can do about it but we are seeing a rebound from the UK and Europe,” he said. “We have to demonstrate value. We need to represent a more sophisticated Australia, an Australia that represents that higher value, because we are higher cost.” He said Tourism Australia will invest $150 million this year to directly market Australia to an international audience.

At ATE 2013, Stephen Thomson, executive manager, Qantas announced that the airline would be starting Jetstar’s Hong Kong services this year. “We have had to make some tough decisions, make new partnerships and devise new strategies. Whether it is international or domestic, we cannot look at these businesses in isolation, they are all integrated. In 2011 we had formulated a five-year plan to turnaround the business and we are on track on this.” He added, “We are strongly looking at Dubai as the gateway to Europe and the Middle Eastern markets and Singapore and Hong Kong for Asian markets. Moving our European hub from Singapore to Dubai is a strategic move. Our partnership with Emirates is a very strong vehicle to drive growth of tourism into Australia. It will also help open up regional tourism in Cairns, Hobart, etc. We expect a five point increase in traffic to regional tourism destinations.”

Qantas will soon be introducing the A380 into Asia. “We understand Asia and have a long term approach to the continent as it is emerging as an important region – economically, politically and culturally,” he added.

The airline has just launched its Qantas Singapore Lounge with a contemporary look. “We will also be tripling the size of the Los Angeles Lounge which was long overdue. We are redesigning our onboard experiences – the menus, the new comforters in Business Class which have got good feedback. We are also investing in our staff – 11,000 frontline staff – and their training,” informed Thomson.

India Down Under

I have attended several other ATEs, including one in 2011, in Sydney at the same venue. I had good business meetings and the overall experience was super. Attending such international trade events is great in terms of sourcing and appraising suppliers of our needs.

Rajkumar Sarrof, director, Pristine Travels, Kolkata

I am attending ATE for the first time. I had good business meetings and I may be looking forward to participate again. These type of international trade events are a must as we come across many people, and organisations whom we have never met but are important for our business.

Kanwaljit Singh Cheema, director, Grand Travel Planners, Chandigarh

This was my second ATE. The event was well planned and managed professionally. I had very productive business meetings. Such events are very important for the growth of our business.

Umesh Kapur, director, Grand Travel Planners, Chandigarh

This was my first ATE. The layout, planning, venue everything was perfect. Since it was based on pre scheduled appointments, meetings were successful. My overall experience was very good. Attending such international events is very essential as you get to meet and interact personally with almost all of the suppliers (hotels, tour operators, attractions etc) of the entire country under one roof and gain in depth knowledge on the destination. This will educate us more on the destination and help us to promote and sell better.

Roopa Srikanth, Chrysalis Holidays, Bengaluru

I am an ATE delegate for the first time. I had excellent business meetings and my overall experience was excellent. It was nice to meet and interact with the suppliers and know the products in detail. This will help us sell the products confidently.

Kalpana Kulkarni, Millennium Travels, Pune

This is my eighth time at ATE. It was excellent as usual though a bit long (the five-day format). The good thing is we got to see a lot more products. As I had gone with a specific purpose in mind, I think i was able to achieve the same but need to work out the nitty gritties. The overall experience was excellent. These events are essential to catch up on competition as well as increase the option inventory for our clients.

Himansu Das, CEO, HD Travels, Bhubaneswar

I have attended ATE previously in Sydney in 2000 and 2001. Sydney as a destination is always fascinating and iconic with TA & DNSW as one of the best hosts. This was an excellent opportunity to meet many suppliers and grow our relationships further and at the same time learn about many new products

It was a very good experience to meet and interact with suppliers and some buyers from other regions – writing new businesses and products and to experience pre tour of Cairns and post touring in Hamilton and Hayman Islands to understand the product details and to ensure that our product promotions in the B2B Indian market is in the right direction. As an Australia DMC it is a necessity for our organisation to attend ATE and interact both with buyers and sellers, to showcase our activities and demonstrate our local expertise.

Prashant Gupta, manager – India, Wel-Travel Australia, Mumbai

Beyond the bridge

Qantas and the NSW Government have announced a new $30 million three-year partnership to promote NSW to the world, marking the largest tourism and major events marketing partnership in the state’s history. Sandra Chipchase, CEO, Destination NSW informed, “In November last year we launched the NSW 2021, a 10 year plan to make NSW the number one destination. Our visitor target is to push from 18.3 billion to 36.6 billion. We want to show that NSW is more than just Sydney so our focus will be on regional NSW destinations. We have launched a new South Coast campaign, a domestic campaign for Shoalhaven which we will take international, the Barangaroo project which includes the new SICCEP, the brand newWhite Bay Cruise Terminal (making Sydney the ONLY city in Australia to have two bay terminals) – all this is part of the renewal of Sydney.”

Commenting on NSW’s digital strategy, she added, “We also want to be the latest in the digital space. Content is the key. We recently launched Sydney 3600 – a digital innovation which showcases Sydney and the Hunter Valley wine region through unique aerial tours which users can control and navigate their way around with a 360 degree view.” As well as the high definition interactive aerial tours, first person experiences have also been created, enabling people to put ‘their face in the picture’ and get a first-hand feel for what it’s like to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, interact with animals at Taronga Zoo, surf at Bondi Beach, cycle at Manly and kayak on Sydney Harbour. These videos can then be shared through Facebook. Destination NSW has also secured a new partnership with global youth brand leader MTV and travel industry partners STA Travel with the aim to increase NSW’s share of working holiday and young professional visitors to Australia.

Sydney will be the hotspot for some exciting events – Corroboree, the largest and first indigenous art festival will be held here; Opera House will turn 40 in October this year and big celebrations have been planned. The fourth edition of Vivid Sydney, a cultural fiesta of music, light and ideas just concluded in this vibrant city.

As a market India is big on NSW’s radar. There are talks of a unique marketing campaign being made especially for the India market. Declining to reveal more, Chipchase said instead, “Indians are confident because English is their second language. It is a big market with 90 per cent of youngsters working for BPOs – they have good disposable incomes and are willing to spend on travelling, eating and visiting places. They are also keen on adventure activities. NSW is very good for youngsters. It is also popular among Indian honeymooners. We offer beach activities like surfing lessons, adventure activities in the Blue Mountains and Hunter Valley, Harley Davidson rides and of course the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), a very popular attraction for Indians given our shared interest in the game.”

Paramjit Bawa, country manager – India, Destination NSW, pointed out, “Self drives are getting popular among Indians. There is a lot of interest for upmarket products like Jaguars, Rolls Royces and Ferraris.” There is optimism that Air India, India’s national carrier will work out direct flights. “If this happens, it will be the game changer for us. We have to work with the airlines because we cannot push the numbers up unless we have the seats,” opined Chipchase.

McEvoy agrees, “There are good capacities with Qantas and Jet Airways. But the prospects of direct connectivity are exciting.” He added, “Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Kolkata – these cities have an audience that fits our visitor profile. The average age of the population is between 35 -54, who are tech savvy and have a passport. We have carefully identified some media and distribution channels as well. Today there are nearly 800 Aussie Specialists in India, a 32 per cent increase over last year.”