Tourism Australia MD denies food and wine focused campaign favours luxury market

Restaurant AustraliaTourism Australia’s managing director John O’Sullivan has defended its latest campaign strategy of promoting the country’s food and wine, insisting it will not just benefit luxury product but the entire tourism industry.

Speaking to Mumbrella, O’Sullivan denied Restaurant Australia was geared only towards attracting affluent travellers dining at hatted establishments, arguing that 1,600 business have been showcased on the campaign’s website, with 700 turned into feature articles. Of almost 300 adverts which appeared in Australian newspapers during the initial phase of the crusade, the “majority” were “ordinary” business “just doing great things in food and wine”.

He said there would be a “trickle down effect” for tourism businesses across the country and claimed the imagery in the TV ads and print not only depicted Australia’s food and wine product but other experiences that would appeal to non-foodies.

O’Sullivan’s comments followed robust debate on Mumbrella last week as Tourism Australia rolled out Restaurant Australia internationally. While the campaign has been well received by some, others have criticised it for “pandering to the big end of town while us hardworking smaller operators miss out”.

“Naturally I don’t think that’s a fair assessment,” O’Sullivan said. “One of the positives of this job is that everyone has an opinion on the the stuff we produce, which is great for a brand to have. You have to roll with the positives and the criticism, but it’s a pretty unfair statement to be frank. If you look at the scenes that we have used in the creative, yes there are some high end experiences but we also have experiences that are accessible and affordable.”

He highlighted the scenes in Melbourne’s laneways, barbecuing crayfish on Rottnest Island and wine tasting in South Australia as experiences that are not geared towards the luxury end of the market.

“I’d argue that walking through Melbourne’s laneways is something everyone can do no matter what their social economic background. I’d also argue that barbecuing seafood on an island or a beach is accessible, so we have tried to mix the imagery up,” O’Sullivan said.

“You look at the rally cry to the industry in particular. We said to the industry, and to Australians, you tell us what that the experiences are and they did. We did not apply a filter or a standard. This is not just about five star high end dining or luxury but a broad range of experiences.

“This is about co-joining tourism and hospitality and within that you dive into different types of experiences. This is about cellar door experiences, sitting on Manly beach eating fish and chips, it’s about food and wine tours, cafes and so on.”

He said the TV ad, the first work for the agency by Clemenger BBDO Sydney which some have described as too aspirational, is designed to be “emotive” and to make people “stop and listen” and drive them to the Tourism Australia website. While high end experiences are featured, there is imagery that will appeal and resonate with all markets, he said.

He added: “You look at the imagery of the campaign. A couple get on a water taxi in the most picturesque harbour in the world, cruise round two of our national icons and at the very end they have a five star dining experience. It is showcasing tourism imagery with an experience. Yes, a couple sit down overlooking Ayers Rock but there is also an indigenous experience.

“We should be proud of our high end product, and we are, but we are also proud of other experiences that are very accessible.”

Asked how the wider industry could benefit, O’Sullivan said businesses, events and experiences promoted through the Restaurant Australia campaign hub will drive people to regional Australia and have a knock on effect.

“Take a regional hotel in Victoria, there might be a food and wine event put froward by that region, say a tour of a vineyard, or a quaint local cafe that has a particular coffee. People coming to see those attractions will have to stay somewhere. There is definitely a trickle down effect,” he said.

O’Sullivan said the campaign is already delivering one of its returns, claiming Australia has grown in appeal among consumers who have seen the TV adverts. He cited initial research which reported a 27 per cent improvement in the perception of Australia as a holiday destination and a 15 per cent increase in Australia as a food and wine destination.

He added that the campaign was the result of exhaustive research and was “not cooked up overnight”.

“This market spends $4.2b, and to put that in context to a market spend, it second only to China. It’s a critically important market and I’d argue it’s a diverse market.

“The campaign is based on research done on an annual basis for the last 2-3 years which showed that food and wine presented us with an opportunity. We didn’t just say, let’s go and do a food and wine campaign. We crunched this through a major piece of analysis and were cognisant that it fits in with the concept of There’s Nothing Like Australia. It will be a key part of our brand story going forward.

“The tourism hub showcased 1,600 business, and of that we have converted 700 into articles. We know that it’s a global driver of tourism.”

Steve Jones


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