A “Situational Analysis” report (PDF link) from Tourism Australia earlier this year had a detailed review of how Australian tourism product is distributed and perceived internationally, and how it needs to market the brand and its offerings in the future. The report, compiled together with the help of PricewaterhouseCoopers, had a chart that caught our eye, and speaks to the larger tension between country tourism boards, the the regional/state boards trying to attract visitors beyond the headline offerings.

This chart below is how Tourism Australia (TA) spends its total marketing budget, versus how the state tourism organizations (STOs) spend their money, and the priorities become clear: The national board spends heavily on consumer marketing in conjunction with the industry, and the state boards focus on trade development, events and missions, living up to their traditionally defined roles.

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And while this may be one specific country, the lessons this report presents speaks to every country, especially larger ones, which have similar tourism structures. Some of the findings and lessons from this report:

  • General consensus that Australia should go to market under one banner, that return on investment could be enhanced through greater cooperation, and that there is lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities which is leading to duplication.
  • The friction in the relationship between Tourism Australia and various STOs. From a state perspective this stemmed from… ‘coercive’ attitude adopted by Tourism Australia and the lack of greater control over their product’s message and content when used internationally. From Tourism Australia’s perspective, this friction stemmed from a perceived duplication of aspects of their role by states, leading to inefficient use of resources and undermining of the strength that can be associated with going to market under a single banner.
  • STOs side of the story: TA, in its push to market Australia, is not in the STO’s eyes portraying the state’s key strengths or targeting its key markets. This may stem from not using the best footage of the state, requiring funding contributions which are not felt to provide value-for-money, or not aligning with the STO’s
    current marketing push or events calendar. In response to this, STOs may use what little overseas marketing budgets they have to try and address this perceived misrepresentation of their state’s core strengths.
  • STOs of larger states also acknowledged that their return from overseas investment is maximised through coordination and cooperation with TA. However, given their budgetary positions, if they perceive TA is not portraying the state’s strengths or talking to its key markets, they have the overseas resources to rectify this through overseas marketing and trade initiatives.
  • The stimulation of demand for specific tourist destinations within Australia is
    ultimately the responsibility of STOs (state) and RTOs (regional), but should be done consistently with the broader national tourism strategy. In this respect, Tourism Australia should have carriage for leading a more coordinated national distribution strategy, taking a proactive role facilitating STO, RTO and industry activities.