Foreign travel agents have just experienced a free Eurobodalla and Bega Valley holiday – all in the name of research for their customers back home.
Not a bad gig!
NSW Tourism Minister, Adam Marshall says, “We want to ensure that international travel agents are well informed about Australia’s number one state for tourism.”
“Helping put money into local pockets and boosting local economies,” Mr Marshall says.
Called familiarisation tours within the tourism trade or “famils”, three parties of 31 agents from America, the United Kingdom, Italy, and France have just sampled, South Coast Sea Planes, Montague Island Discovery Tours, Ngaran Ngaran Cultural Tours, Bodalla Dairy Shed, Drift Eden, and Tathra Beach House Apartments – among a host of other local attractions.
“These groups are specialist travel salespeople who will now understand our region better, this experience will help them sell our region,” says Anthony Osborne, Executive Officer of Sapphire Coast Tourism.
The three local famils hosted by Destination Southern NSW were part of a group of six tours that sprung from a trade event on the Gold Coast run by Tourism Australia, and follow on from famils to the Snowy Mountains in May and June with 26 participants.
“Two of the groups travelled to the South Coast from Sydney, the other from Canberra,” Mr Osborne says.
Eurobodalla Tourism Marketing Coordinator, Kerrie-Anne Benton, says the agents loved their South Coast experience.
“Nature, nature, and more nature, that’s why the Sapphire and Eurobodalla Coasts were selected for these familiarisations,” Ms Benton says.
“And with flights into and out of Canberra and Singapore now, a gateway for travel has emerged connecting our region to the world.”
The Jindabyne based, Gang Gang Tours acted as chaperones on two of the three local tours.
“I had eight lovely ladies from the USA, front-line travel agents who will take this experience home,” says Gang Gang owner, Janine Becker.
“Out of the eight, seven hadn’t been to Australia before,” Ms Becker says.
“One of the agents told me people are wanting to get off the tourist trail, which is our region’s big selling point.”
Aside from teaching them about us, these opportunities also serve as a learning experience for local tourism bosses and operators.
“It was interesting to hear about travel patterns in other countries,” Ms Becker says.
“Workers in the U.S only get two paid weeks of leave a year, which means the average holiday runs seven to ten days.
“European countries tend to get four weeks paid leave, so they have longer holidays and have a great opportunity to travel to regional areas overseas,” she says.
Ms Becker doesn’t think the international market will be the biggest part of the Gang Gang business model, but she is keen to grow its influence.
“This experience will help us target our marketing better,” Ms Becker says.
The other point that emerged was that in most cases, international markets travel outside Australia’s peak periods and in some cases in the heart of our off-peak season.
In the year ending June 2016, the Eurobodalla welcomed 28,000 international visitors – 20% from the U.K, 15% Germany, and 11% from the U.S.A
Kerrie-Anne Benton thinks it makes business sense to target overseas holidaymakers.
“Australia is a finite market whereas there is massive potential for international travel growth,” she says.
“Canberra has opened up new opportunities for the South Coast and we need to encourage more tourism businesses to be international ready and have options ready for travellers.”
Further south in the Bega Valley, Anthony Osborne is nodding.
“Australia continues to see growth in international visits while the domestic market is static, it’s a no-brainer for us to focus some resources on building this market, and we have extra funding this year from Bega Valley Shire Council to tackle that challenge,” Mr Osborne says.
“We need to develop more experiences around our unique selling points. Nature and the coast are the number one reasons international travellers come to Australia and we have that in spades.”
*About Regional content is made with the backing of members, people, and businesses supporting local storytelling. Thank you – Sprout Cafe and Local Produce in Eden, Shan Watts, Robyn Amair, Gabrielle Powell, and Phil Martin.
*Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council