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Cheenee Otarra

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Because of Australia’s geographic location that makes it relatively far from travel source markets, the country has had to work harder to attract tourists, to ensure a satisfying experience, and to increase repeat visitors. When I was in Melbourne during my postgraduate studies from 2013 to 2014, I learned first hand how Tourism Australia and Tourism Victoria (state's tourism organization) delivered their internal strategies focused at equipping the tourism industry with necessary data and skills.

As Tourism postgraduate researchers at Monash University, our class would attend tourism industry events and visit tourism-related offices to learn about how different agencies worked together to bring about successful events and a strong tourism industry. These were some of the key insights I got from those events.

1. Collaboration is key.
Melbourne’s event calendar is always full! Two global sporting events, the Australian Open and the Formula One Australian Grand Prix, are held in Melbourne. And why not? They’re excellent at organizing these events and have won awards for them.

When our class visited the Australian Open corporate office, we learned that the most important strategy of event organizers is convergence.

Different sectors and organizations - City Council, Public Transport Victoria, marketing agencies, and other tourism-related businesses - collaborate to bring about smooth and memorable events.

During the Australian Open, for example, special tram routes were opened that would bring people from Flinders Street Station to the arenas. Advisories were provided to the public weeks prior the event to inform them about increased volume of passengers and new routes. Federation Square was converted into a viewing area so people could watch matches on the large screen while drinking beers under the sun. Australian Open flags and banners were everywhere!

2. Data is gold.

One of Australia’s most pivotal strengths is its comprehensive database of tourism-related information, through Tourism Research Australia (TRA), which researchers could use and analyze for several purposes.

TRA "provides research information across both international and domestic markets that supports decision making, marketing and tourism industry performance for the Australian community."

TRA regularly gathers quality data from inbound travelers, domestic travelers, locals, business owners, and other stakeholders in the industry. Using data from surveys such as the International Visitor Survey (IVS), TRA produces reports for the specific needs of every state or sector.

As researchers, we would go over these data and conduct our own reports and analyses. I’ve had to study the patterns of education travel in Victoria over a period of ten years, and every data I needed was in the database - source markets, length of stay, expenditure, and even accommodation type. You could spend all they tinkering with the data and getting diverse insights.

3. Communicate within.

Tourism Australia is not only good at external communications and having the world's best social media team, but it is also excellent at supplying its own stakeholders with the information, resources, and skills that are needed to be part of the thriving tourism industry.

In their websites, Tourism Australia and Tourism Victoria provide visitors with tools for starting a tourism business, digital marketing, crisis management, accreditation, and pricing, among others.

Tourism Australia also conducts periodic industry briefings to provide the tourism industry in every State or Territory with an overview of the organization's activity, market insights, business events, and partnership opportunities. This is free for everyone and the audience would often be a mix of hotel or attraction site owners or managers, academics, and professionals in the industry.

We were able to attend one industry briefing during the autumn of 2013, and during which, we experienced how Tourism Australia representatives presented the changing data on international and domestic visitors, as well as the varying preferences of tourists. The highlight of that briefing, for example, was the growing demand for Food and Wine, Wi-Fi connectivity in hotels and resorts, and the importance of social media for pre-travel period. Tourism Australia also provided the audience with a few tips on how to improve their product portfolio and services to attract their target markets.

Although I was able to gather these insights while I was in Melbourne, I only came to appreciate them when I was already working back here in the Philippines. My first job involved helping local governments and tourism officers improve their tourism industry, which sometimes involved product development, investment matching, and even branding.

While we did what we could, I felt that we could still do more for our tourism industry, especially in terms of ensuring that local tourism businesses are able to handle the demands and pressures of international tourists.

Nonetheless, experiencing those challenges allowed me to look back to my experience in Melbourne and to recognize the value of my Tourism education, which was not limited to classroom lectures, but in fact encompassed the entire duration of my stay in Australia.

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