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End of year message from John O’Sullivan

21 December 2016

It’s amazing to think we are almost at the end of 2016, and what a busy year it's been. Congratulations to all of you on a fantastic 12 months, the industry has had a great year.

In 2016 Australia welcomed more than eight million international visitors, only 18 months after passing the seven million milestone. To give you a sense of how fast we’re now growing, it took more than six years for visitor numbers to climb from five to six million. Importantly, Tourism Research Australia now forecasts annual visitor expenditure to reach $127 billion by 2020, exceeding the lower end of our Tourism 2020 target. So whilst global tourism is increasingly competitive and we must never become complacent, it's a great time to be part of the industry in Australia.

International airline seats Down Under are growing and it is of particular significance that Ministers Ciobo and Chester recently announced an open skies aviation agreement with China, further opening up the opportunity from our most valuable inbound market. Accommodation is also growing with some 120 hotel projects currently in the pipeline.

Tourism Australia is doing everything it can to attract more high-yielding visitors to our shores. Our global positioning 'There’s Nothing Like Australia’ continues to resonate well across our key markets. The latest chapter, a push on Australia’s world-class aquatic and coastal experiences, was launched in January 2016 by our ambassador Chris Hemsworth. The campaign contains the largest and most dynamic range of assets we’ve ever created, including 360 degree videos and virtual reality. As a result of the campaign we’ve had a phenomenal 10.5 million views of the 360 degree videos on Facebook, a nine per cent increase in visitation to Australia.com and a 104 per cent increase in leads to the Australia tourism industry.

Restaurant Australia also continues to thrive. Since we launched the campaign in May 2014, spending on food and wine by international visitors has grown by more than $1 billion, so much so that we surpassed our original spending target six months ahead of schedule. In 2017 watch out for the ‘Oscars of Food’ – The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in April in Melbourne. We’ll be bringing influential foodies from around the world and taking them to all States and Territories in Australia to sample the best of our culinary offerings.

This year we have worked with over 200 partners, contributing an additional $65 million to our annual marketing budget. I’m really pleased that in August we re-established a formal partnership with Qantas as well as extending and deepening a number of other airline partnerships including Air New Zealand and China Southern. Our relationship with Virgin Australia continues to go from strength to strength.

In market we now work closely with over 150 key distribution partners on joint marketing activities, each of whom shares a commitment to training their frontline sales team through the Aussie Specialist Program (ASP). The ASP is a critical component in our global distribution strategy and was recently relaunched with trainers around the world and new online training modules. Our partnership with all States and Territories on the ASP is also a great example of one voice in action. Through a new three year agreement with each State tourism organisation, Australia is represented by the same group of trainers in market as opposed to multiple. It’s been a great success with a 35 per cent increase in the number of qualified agents and training sessions held for over 34,000 agents since launch.

We are also working with outstanding creative marketing partners and in September confirmed the appointment of Universal McCann (UM) to handle our global media planning and buying requirements. UM is Australia's highest ranked and most awarded media agency and will help us reach customers through technology and data in more targeted and efficient ways than previously possible.

In 2017 our focus will continue to be on markets that offer the best prospects to achieve our Tourism 2020 targets, while maintaining a balanced portfolio across both Eastern and Western markets. China, Japan, South Korea and the US offer our strongest prospects for growth. However they will be ably supported by Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, India and New Zealand. With a looming Ashes Series in 2017/18 we will also see a boost from the UK and the markets of Germany, France and Italy remain critical in our quest for high spending and dispersing consumers.

In 2017 we also celebrate the ‘China-Australia Year of Tourism’. It’s a great opportunity for the industry to leverage new policy settings introduced by Government this year - such as open skies and the new 10 year multiple entry visitor visa. But importantly it’s also about furthering our relationship with China. During the year we will conduct targeted marketing campaigns, distribution activities as well as host a number of industry trade missions to China. It all kicks off on 5 February.

In September this year we received an additional $10 million in Government funding for a global youth advertising campaign as part of a range of Government initiatives targeting working holiday makers. The youth market is critical for Australia because it contributes 25 per cent of all visitor arrivals and 44 per cent of all visitor spend. Initially campaign activity is aimed at potential working holiday makers in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and the Nordics. In 2017 this will expand into a broader youth campaign that will roll out in all of our international markets.

For business events we’re particularly focused on attracting association events to Australia. This is an area of the visitor economy that offers significant potential and Australia has recently had some big wins: Queensland's Gold Coast will host 8,000 top performers from Infinitus China for a week-long incentive program in May 2018; and more than 3,000 aviation decision makers from around the world will gather in South Australia in 2019 for Routes Asia, the world’s largest aviation trade event. Just two examples of how Australia is attracting world class incentives and conferences.

Trade events are a great way for industry to get in front of potential buyers and we’re very active in that space. Next year will start off in America with our Australia Marketplace and the US Summit in February. The Australian Tourism Exchange will return to Sydney in May at the brand new ICC Sydney in Darling Harbour – a fantastic new piece of infrastructure for our country’s business events. We’ll hold our first Corroboree West on the Gold Coast in October with agents from both Europe and the Americas, and Dreamtime will also return in 2017.

I’m very proud of the team we have here at Tourism Australia, aligned to our purpose to make Australia the world’s most desirable and memorable destination on the planet. I’m really excited that in February we’ll be joined by Pip Harrison to lead our international division that includes very strong teams in market.

Our sincere thanks go to The Hon. Steven Ciobo MP, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and the Tourism Australia Board chaired by Tony South for their continued support of the organisation.

But most importantly a big thanks to all of you for contributing to the success of Australian tourism.

Season’s greetings and I wish you all a prosperous New Year.

John O'Sullivan, Managing Director, Tourism Australia.