Tourism Australia organised this year’s annual familiarisation programme with a group of senior executives in Cairns and Melbourne. Mark Armsden reports
Competition among national tourism organisations (NTO) for Asia Pacific’s rapidly expanding incentive business is at an alltime high, forcing industry marketing executives to produce innovative programmes to attract the business. At the forefront of attracting corporate decision- makers to experience its vast array of products is Tourism Australia’s (TA) threeyear-old familiarisation programme that caters only to high-ranking executives involved in running corporate-incentive schemes. TA has always been highly aware of the value of Asian incentive groups and launched its familiarisation programme in 2002 with 14 delegates. This June, the programme had grown to 29 delegates who participated over five nights in Cairns and Melbourne. It was also significant that TAwas able to secure a partnership/sponsorship arrangement with Cathay Pacific, which flew all delegates business class from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Seoul, Singapore and Taipei. The programme also saw delegates stay in some of the best hotels in Australia in a fivestar programme that treated the group as VIPs every step of the way. This approach differs from other global NTOs in that TA’s approach to Asian incentive organisers and decision-makers is to deal with the corporate entities directly rather than through traditional channels of destination management companies and incentive travel agents. Heading TA’s direction in this area is Hong Kong-based North Asia regional manager and business tourism manager Johnny Nee. “Tourism Australia has for many years had a great relationship with travel agents and organisers and they know our product well,” Nee says. “Those relationships are important to us and we will always maintain and foster them but our focus is shifting toward approaching corporate end-users directly through our offices in the region and developing strong relationships with them. “Alot of companies are still not aware of the value an NTO can provide for them and one of our key objectives in this programme is to communicate to companies the services we can offer and also just how keen and how far the Australian industry is prepared to go to help them.” Australia made a conscious decision in 2003 to move in this direction. Results so far have vindicated the approach. About 30 incentive groups have been confirmed from among the 75 delegates who have participated in the programme over the past three years. “We have very much a hands-on approach and do not just drop the delegates home at the end of the familiarisation and forget about them,” Nee adds. “Because Australia has many different destinations, our goal is to form a long-term and close relationship with these companies. We not only want to see them coming back to Australia again and again, but also experiencing different destinations. That is also one of the reasons we visit multiple destinations in this programme.” In 2004, the programme visited Sydney and Perth, and was switched to Cairns and Melbourne this year. TAprefers the dual-destination approach to display the ease of travelling within Australia and also to promote the concept of companies choosing two destinations within the country for their events. Nee says TAis looking to expand on in the future. “While I can’t reveal the total budget for this programme, I can say it is in excess of US$100,000 and that is quite an investment,” he says. “But with the feedback we are receiving it is an investment Australia believes will continue to produce solid results.” The Australian industry has also warmed to the programme. When selecting the destinations to host the familiarisation, TA requests proposals from Australian cities with convention and visitor bureaux. These cities must submit a detailed itinerary that is deemed to be of a high enough standard to showcase the advantages of hosting incentive groups in Australia. The bids are then critically analysed before a decision is made on the destinations. The qualification process for delegates to receive an invite is just as important and carried out by TAstaff High spirits…group games f around the region.
This article was first published on CEI Asia Pacific
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