Tourism Australia has shown the power of food tourism to drive higher visitation, but much of that is due to the country's forward-thinking content platforms.
Editor’s Note: Following our previous CEO interview series in online travel, hospitality, and destinations, Skift has launched a new series focused on Chief Marketing Officers.
To better understand the big marketing challenges facing travel brands in an age when consumers are in control, Skift’s What Keeps CMOs Up at Night talks with leading voices in global marketing from across all industry sectors.
These interviews with leaders of hotels, airlines, tourism boards, digital players, agents, tour operators, and more will explore challenges they’re facing, where they get insights, and how they leverage digital insights to make smarter decisions.
This is the latest interview in the series.
Tourism Australia is driving a significant rise in annual visitation and visitor spend, thanks to the successful Restaurant Australia food and wine tourism campaign.
Launched in May 2014, the global culinary promotion pivoted Australia’s brand reputation toward the luxury segment by focusing on upscale and/or cultural foodie travel experiences throughout the entire country.
Over the two-year period since Restaurant Australia launched, according to the latest March 2016 numbers, international tourists spent 21.1% more on food and wine experiences. Visitor spend specifically on food and wine in Australia in 2015 grew by $493 million year-over-year, resulting in culinary-themed purchases now accounting for over 20% of total spend.
In terms of wine tourism, more than 960,000 foreign arrivals visited a winery in Australia during their visit in 2015, representing a year-on-year increase of 37%.
Tourism Australia has created an enormous library of online content to support the Restaurant Australia messaging, which it continues to update on a quarterly basis or sooner.
Some of the latest content showcases Australian movie star Chris Hemsworth, Aboriginal culinary activities, aquatic-style cuisine in emerging coastal destinations, a pop-up restaurant helmed by Denmark’s celebrity chef René Redzepi, etc.
“We could quite literally write content until the cows come home, but it’s really understanding what the consumer wants, where the consumer’s at, what’s driving them, and what are they searching for,” Lisa Ronson, CMO of Tourism Australia, told Skift. “So we’re using a lot of different data points to inform what content we develop, rather than just a kind of spray-and-pray approach.”
Following is our slightly edited conversation with Ronson about reworking a destination brand image around food tourism and a comprehensive digital content program.
Skift: First, what keeps you up at night in terms of destination marketing in 2016?
Lisa Ronson: There is quite a significant shift in consumer behavior, and it’s changing all the time. So we’ve got a landscape that is more competitive, and getting through to that consumer is getting increasingly difficult. We need to be a lot more targeted in our messaging and our communication style. It’s the old adage of “right message, right customer, right time,” but I think the exciting part is we’ve now got the data and the tools to be able to actually deliver on that, and not just hope for the best, which maybe in the past we have done. We can really deliver on the one-to-one marketing, on personalized marketing, which is really going to be the key in our industry for our future success.
So keeping ahead of the game and really keeping up with the consumer is probably the most important thing that is on my mind at the moment, and that’s intrinsically linked to the digital landscape. That’s where the consumer is, and that’s where we need to be to inspire them and change their behavior, so they make a decision to come to Australia versus another destination.
Skift: What was the catalyst behind the development of Restaurant Australia?
Ronson: We use data to inform our decision-making and our strategies. The key behind Restaurant Australia was simply that we discovered a really powerful insight in our Consumer Demand Project that we run every year. And that is that we’ve actually got the greatest restaurants on the planet in terms of people, place, and produce.
Identifying those powerful insights is something else that keeps CMOs awake at night. It was important that we really looked at how important food and wine is when consumers are choosing a holiday destination, but also that we had a huge opportunity to leverage our products, which we hadn’t really leveraged in the past. The Consumer Demand Project really opened our eyes to the fact that consumers were increasingly traveling on their tummy. They want good quality food and wine experiences when they travel. It’s definitely not an afterthought or a nice surprise when they get to a destination. There’s researching and wanting to understand what type of food and wine experiences that destinations have on offer.
Skift: What was the specific data?
Ronson: The research showed that across our key markets, only about 26% of consumers make that linkage between quality food and wine with Australia before they come here. However, after they leave, when you ask them the same question around the linkage between Australia and quality food and wine, we become second only to France at over 60%. What that identified for us was the big gap in perception and reality, so that was the primary motivator behind the Restaurant Australia campaign.
Skift: So you saw there was an opportunity to reframe the Australian brand to a more upscale and more food and wine-savvy audience. Do you have an overarching vision of how you develop digital editorial content to drive conversion?
Ronson: Absolutely. At the core, content assists potential visitors to research where they want to go, and what they want to do when they get here. It’s really, really important, both the content that we develop ourselves, content that our industry develops that we work with them on, and also user-generated content. Those aspects are all really important to make up our whole broader holistic content story, especially so that the consumer can see what other consumers are doing through user-generated content, versus some of the information that we or our industry might provide to them as far as itineraries.
Even the most basics of things like weather, consumers are looking for an increasing amount of content before they select the destinations, so we’ve been very conscious in what types of content that we deliver. Also, we’ve got all the data to see what content they are consuming and what is proving to be more popular, so we optimize continually on that basis.
Skift: Is Restaurant Australia content successfully driving incremental visitation beyond the main tourism areas?
Ronson: Oh, absolutely it’s a way to extend the traveler’s experience and give it greater depth and understanding through really passionate stories about produce and place. Australia has an amazing diversity of experiences in our cities as well as in regional Australia. We’re very close to the food source and very close to the producers. Consumers are increasingly wanting to see where their food and wine comes from, what is that value of that production chain, is it sustainable, and also meet with the producers. The closer that travelers can get to those producers is the absolute benefit, because they get stories, they get how the business was started. It’s something that’s very exciting and very, very unique.
Skift: What is an example of that?
Ronson: Our indigenous experiences are very unique. You can’t get them anywhere else in the world. We’re trying to create greater awareness of indigenous culture, which is why we did that indigenous film that we launched last year, and how travelers can get involved in that culture as part of their holiday experiences.
We know from speaking to a lot of different people, after they’ve had an indigenous experience, that it’s been very touching and very special, and it’s really taken their trip to a whole other level. People are really genuinely touched by the experience. Interestingly, when you watch that film in the closing, with one of the actors that are in it, she was genuinely moved. That wasn’t an act, actually, in terms of what we picked up on the end of that film. So to include that as part of your holidays is a driver and also a reason to revisit.
Skift: How will your content strategy evolve moving forward?
Ronson: One of the things that we’ve done more recently is start to pull our user-generated content (UGC) through to Australia.com. We haven’t done that in the past. That will continue, but that’s probably the most recent change or enhancement we’ve made on our food and wine strategy. It’s broader than food and wine, so it includes aquatic and coastal experiences, and it includes a lot of different other aspects of Australia, including natural wildlife, but a large portion of that continues to be food and wine.
Skift: How are you growing your video content at Australia.com?
Ronson: From all of the consumer trends that I’ve seen from multiple different data points, video is so important and increasingly important in deciding on a destination. The more authentic that video is, the more compelling it is, because consumers are looking for more genuine experiences that they want to explore, to seek out really interesting and different aspects of a destination. Video is the best way to tell that story, undoubtedly.
We have a very comprehensive collection of virtual reality and 360 video. We’re getting unprecedented levels of viewing and time on-site, so it is a very good way for us to tell a certain story. Is it right for every brand in every category? No. It’s good for us, because we’ve got great content. We’re not manufacturing different, interesting aspects. We’ve got all those great experiences, particularly interacting with wildlife and that sort of thing. Those media are a great way to bring that to life and really show Australia in an immersive way, which is what we intended to do from the outset.
Skift: What was the creative concept behind your partnership with Chef René Redzepi to open a 10-week NOMA Australia pop-up, based on his restaurant in Denmark, repeatedly voted best restaurant in the world?
Ronson: Experiential marketing is a growing component of our marketing activity, because what it does is pull a trigger point to change the consumer from, “I’ll visit Australia one day” to “I’ll visit Australia today.” If a pop-up is from this day to this day, that is a really compelling reason for consumers to go, “Okay, I’m going to travel now.”
The pop-up was a great example of a collaboration like that, and it absolutely was a collaboration. It came about around 15 months ago now, when we started having the discussion. He was considering a number of other destinations, but after researching a lot of the indigenous food and wine, he just fell in love with Australia, and he wanted to bring the uniqueness of the food and wine to life.
Skift: And then those types of collaborations provide a whole new stream of content opportunities, right? And it sounds like that content performs well.
Ronson: It definitely performs really well. The content that we got as a result of NOMA has been just extraordinary, as was the interest that we got from the international media. So we got to tell a broader Australia story on the back of NOMA, and then we can tell that story through the content that we generated from NOMA. It was really compelling because it was authentic. It was genuine. Consumers gravitate towards authenticity and engaging stories, so having René tell the story of how he would pick out the ingredients, how he set up the restaurant, and how he thought of his ingredients, it’s just a great story. It’s very genuine, and it’s very real. Consumers love that.
This series is presented by Boxever. The Skift content team maintains complete editorial control over these interviews and the selection of subjects.
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