As Australia’s national tourism organisation, Tourism Australia’s role is to increase international and domestic leisure tourism via international business events, PR and media programs, trade shows and industry programs, consumer promotions, online communications and consumer research. With China their largest market, they are re-positioning themselves to up their already strong communications across the country. The Luxury Conversation caught up with Andrew Hogg, Regional General Manager, North Asia of Tourism Australia to find out about their digital strategy, UGC-concepts and Tourism 2020.
Where does your current strategy lie with your China operations?
China has been and will continue to be our most important tourism market. Overall, the number of Chinese travellers to Australia has increased through the years. They are our largest market for total spend and visitor nights in 2018, and by the year ending July 2019, Australia welcomed 1.4 million Chinese travellers with the total spend at AUD 12 billion in Q1 2019 .
Tourism Australia also uses multiple channels such as digital and social media as well as partnerships with travel platforms, airlines, media, influential ambassadors, and KOLs to position Australia as a fashionable and vibrant destination to Chinese tourists. We showcase Australia’s extraordinary food and drink, beautiful coastlines, unique wildlife, and mysterious ancient Aboriginal culture to Chinese travellers. Recently we also launched a campaign called Too Australian for Words and aim to showcase lesser known, unexpected yet inspiring and authentic travel destinations for travellers to experience.
The Australian government also announced a Tourism 2020 goal. Tourism 2020 is a whole-of-government and industry long-term strategy to build the resilience and competitiveness of Australia’s tourism industry and grow its economic contribution. The Tourism 2020 goal is to achieve more than $115 billion AUD in overnight spend by 2020 (up from $70 billion in 2009). Tourism Australia shares this goal with the Australian tourism industry and federal, state and territory governments in an effort to maximise tourism’s economic contribution to the Australian people.
Word of mouth can the most trustworthy and persuasive form of marketing. How does Tourism Australia leverage user-generated content (UGC)?
Building on people’s natural desire to share their holiday experiences with family, friends, and colleagues, and we created our Friends of Australia program, where we work with influential ambassadors and opinion leaders who act as storytellers for their experiences in Australia. The program allows them to share their own personal and authentic Australian stories to their networks as well as in the mainstream media, social media, consumer-facing platforms such as travel related apps, as well as through Tourism Australia’s networks.
Friends of Australia include both Australian and international opinion leaders such as sports stars, fashion designers and celebrity chefs, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, media personalities, and artists like Australian actor and Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth, who was appointed in 2015 as the global ambassador for Tourism Australia’s campaign. Focusing on the country’s world-class aquatic and coastal experiences, the campaign featured over a dozen unique and distinct Australian aquatic and coastal experiences showcasing Australia as “a place you feel”, and represented the first time a national tourism organisation has adopting virtual reality and 360 degree technologies on such a size and scale.
In April 2019, we also appointed two Friends of Australia from China: Editor-in-Chief of Vogue China Angelica Cheung, and restaurateur Craig Willis. Angelica, who received her MBA at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, was the 2018 winner of the Advance Global Alumni Award, which celebrates Australian university graduates who exhibit remarkable talent, exceptional vision, and ambition. Craig has been flying the Australian flag high here in Shanghai for years by presenting authentic Australian tastes and flavours every day in his restaurants.
How are you working with influencers and on China’s digital eco-system?
In China, we work with travel-related key opinion leaders (KOLs) to reach out to an online audience. These KOLs have a sizable following with some commanding over 1 to 3 million followers. We offer the KOLs trip opportunities and ask them to record and post their experience on Weibo during their trip. After the journey, many KOLs would write long feature articles on their WeChat accounts or create Vlogs to talk about the destination and its activities, restaurants, and hotels.
For our #Too Australian for Words# campaign, which lets Chinese travellers to discover a different side of Australia by showcasing unusual, unfamiliar, unexpected attractions and experience on offer, we partnered with online travel agency platform Mafengwo to invite five travel KOLs to experience these attractions and share their journeys on the widely-used site. We also launched an interactive H5 program on our official WeChat account that lets our followers generate their own personalised poster based on what they want their Australian travel experience to be, and combine different destinations with a character test. By choosing a photo of a tourist attraction in Australia, the program will analyse what kind of person you are, and our followers can post the results on WeChat Moments for their friends to see.
At the same time, Tourism Australia has multiple channels promoting our tourism offerings, including our official Chinese website, and social media accounts on WeChat and Weibo; our Weibo and WeChat have around 1.7 million followers. We provide useful travelling tips, seasonal itinerary, and main airlines promotion info on our platforms to help travellers plan their trips to Australia, and this content generates a lot of views and user feedback that our followers subsequently share on their social media accounts. We are also continuously working with many Australian influencers, from our global ambassador Chris Hemsworth, to local operators, such as winery owners, chefs, tennis champion, wildlife protection specialists etc. There is a column on Tourism Australia’s WeChat account called “Meet the Locals” where we interview the local influencers to showcase the true personality of Australian and authentic Aussie way of life.
As well as the presence on China’s social platforms, how can you prompt further engagement in order to stand out from literally millions of other brand accounts?
We’ve designed different interactive campaigns on social media to engage and encourage our consumers to share more Australian travel experiences. These include encouraging our followers to share their Australian adventures on their Weibo and tag us, and we will “Like” certain posts, and we also post funny photos of native Australian animals and ask our followers to submit captions of what these creatures might be thinking about. We randomly picked captions and send the submitters a toy koala as a thank you gift – gifting is a fun one, for example when we post photos of destinations with colourful landscapes and ask our followers to describe what colour best represents Australia. We chose three comments and send the commenters toy koala as gifts.
In October 2017, we launched the campaign “Your Best Shots in Australia” with the popular Chinese beauty-themed app Meitu where we invited Chinese travellers to upload their photos taken in Australia. We received a total of 55,872 photos from China and across the world, many beautifully taken, and these images were subsequently shared among outbound Chinese tourists and others in the tourism industry. We also displayed out-of-home (OOH) ads in Jing’an Temple – a central metro station in Shanghai with high traffic to promote this campaign. Recently, we’ve also tried to work with well reputed Australian brands and travel/outdoors brands to generate content and social campaign to interact with our followers.
We also see a lot of positive online engagement through our collaboration with KOLs. Tourism Australia also proactively invites KOLs to our events held in China. For FY1819, KOL has generated approximately 18 million impressions and 13,000 engagements for events in China market, including our global ambassador Chris Hemsworth’s visit to China and the AFL event in Shanghai.
With the rest of the world also keen to attract Chinese travellers, what challenges do you face?
While Australia has strong appeal with consumers, low familiarity of Australia’s geography and experience offering leads to a feeling of being overwhelmed sometimes. Also, Australia is perceived as a once-in-a-lifetime destination but many travellers lack the sense of urgency to go because of rational factors such as time, distance and cost. In recent years, we are very proactive in working with key travel and lifestyle influencers, celebrities and broadcasting crews to re-position Australia as a cool and fashionable destination. Also, we want to provide travellers tailored itinerary and solutions catering to their travel preference. Our purpose is to change people’s perception about Australia and showcase more hidden gems in this beautiful country and create social buzz to increase the urgency going to Australia.
Given the multiple social media platforms and immense amount of user-generated content, too much information can be distracting. It is also difficult to guarantee the quality of user-generated content and monitor their effectiveness. Tourism Australia does not dictate KOLs or fans publish their content a certain way but we plan their trips so they can truly experience Australia and then convey those experiences through their own perspectives.