Australia downgrades Indonesia, Philippines(1)

23 May 2003

The Australian Tourist Commission can hear the sound of its cashed-up rivals banging at the door.

Thailand – annual marketing budget US$78.8 million – will target Australia in roadshows to be held next month in Sydney.

The China National Tourism Office plans a campaign in Australia which will incorporate an integrated advertising, public relations and Internet campaign geared for both the trade and consumers.

Malaysia has been in Australia this week, entertaining the trade with lavish dinner presentations, and enticing Australians to buy its wares.

Singapore, too, is spending significant amounts on building trade and consumer confidence in its destination.

In the meantime, Australia is “somewhere between a blip and a crisis”, says Andrew Burnes, chairman of the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC), the inbound tour operators’ association.

The Australian Tourist Commission has been offered no additional funding to counter the 20 percent-plus downturn in overseas arrivals post Iraqi war and the SARS outbreak.

ATC figures reveal that forward bookings from some markets in Asia are down by as much as 50 percent.

“Forward bookings are not always the best indicators of business, particularly in this environment as consumers are making quick decisions, with shorter lead times on holidays, as the situation ‘normalises’.

“But forwards still flag a difficult two to three months ahead,” said ATC managing director Ken Boundy (pictured).

Boundy said Australia could no longer afford to continue operating in 26 markets. “By spreading our resources thinly, we limit our ability to grow markets which have the greatest potential.

“In some smaller markets, funding is insufficient to reach a threshold level needed to effectively promote Australia.”

Among the markets to be downgraded are Indonesia and the Philippines, while Singapore and Hong Kong remain in the top categories to be targeted by the ATC.

Meanwhile, a tourism recovery blueprint has been delayed while Australia’s tourism minister Joe Hockey argues with his government colleagues over the amount of money that can be found to bolster overseas tourism promotion.

Boundy noted last week that “a number of countries have received a significant boost to assist the industry to recover from SARS and Iraq”.

“This additional funding will translate into more tourism ads cluttering the media – making it even harder to catch the attention of the consumer.

“When the market returns, we will face a global travel market more competitive than we have ever seen.”

Burnes, speaking at the ATEC 2003 Symposium in Perth, said the “continued neglect” of the tourism industry by the Australian government was having a real impact on the country’s economic and social future. Jobs were being lost while the government dithered, he said.

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