Larry Dwyer

What is the future for tourism in Australia?

Aussies travelling and taking their holidays at home seem to be a “dying breed”, thanks to the high dollar, with most Australian residents having a taste for international travel only cataclysmic world events could change.

I feel Australia should place more emphasis on its urban tourism attractions, rather than the outback. Its cosmopolitan cities, its attractive streetscapes, its fine dining, sophistication and the sheer liveability of its cities are second to none. There are many fine urban tourism precincts that rival any around the world. And remember that Melbourne has vaulted Vancouver to become the best city in the world to live, according to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Survey, with Sydney not far behind.

Domestic tourism products struggling the most are large-scale resorts in remote or outback destinations which are harder and more expensive to reach, and which simply can’t compete for value for money with overseas destinations.

I’ve also seen that consumer values are changing in ways that favour urban tourism, including strong Generation Y attributes such as being money rich and time poor, plus seeking hedonistic, discerning experiences. They are less loyal to brands – something the airlines know well now – and they seek value for money, not necessarily low prices, within authentic tourism experiences.

Australia should give up trying to compete at the mass-market level to attract tourists. A move to putting emphasis onto Australia’s urban areas has a good synergy with meetings, conferences, and events. Business tourism would be an important market in this context. However there is a place for the outback, and tours to more remote areas could piggyback on this.

One of the world’s fastest growing tourism markets is that of business events tourism. It is typically one of the highest yielding inbound tourism segments because of the high per-delegate spend. Worldwide, there is competition among destinations for such business and, with substantial government support for marketing activity and infrastructure development, this trend is expected to continue.

There are substantial opportunities for operators to associate themselves with business event tourism by way of accommodation, catering, tour operations, and organising professional conferences. Herein could be the future of Australian tourism, with business tourism capable of providing increased opportunities for the Australian tourism industry with strong appeal across all key markets.

Larry Dwyer is a Professor in the School of Marketing at the Australian School of Business.