New Tourism Australia chief marketer Lisa Ronson has pledged to develop the digital and social marketing focus started by her predecessor as she revealed that coastal scenery would become a central theme to the agency’s promotional activity.
In her first public address since taking over from Nick Baker last month, the former Westpac marketing boss said it was time to re-establish the strength and appeal of Australia’s aquatic and coastal areas.
Other destinations including California and Hawaii have closed the gap on Australia in terms of their coastal offering and it was time to step up the marketing of Australia’s beaches and ocean attractions.
Key to that has been Tourism Australia’s partial funding of a three-part documentary on the Great Barrier Reef narrated by iconic natural history presenter David Attenborough.
The collaboration with UK-based Atlantic Productions will see the wonders of the reef beamed into “hundreds of millions” of homes around the world, Ronson said.
After addressing TA’s inaugural Destination Australia conference in Sydney today, Ronson also told Mumbrella that digital marketing, a particular focus of Baker, would be further developed and used to help drive conversions, another of Tourism Australia’s key objectives in 2015.
Ronson acknowledged that destinations vying with Australia for the tourism dollar had picked up their game and closed the gap on Australia in their marketing of coastal attractions.
“Lots of competitors have woken up and are using their own aquatic and coastal assets to market themselves and that is appealing to consumers,” she told Mumbrella. “We sill have an advantage and are quite a way ahead but not as far as we might have been. We need to make sure we stay top of mind.
“It’s about reinforcing the message of what we have in Australia.”
The Great Barrier Reef, the third biggest draw for international tourists behind beaches and wildlife, will play a major role, she said.
Ronson added that the focus on food and wine through Restaurant Australia would continue, while luxury travel to attract high yielding visitors and events would also be woven into the agency’s 2015 marketing strategy.
Turning to digital marketing, Ronson said it would play a key role in converting consumer interest into bookings, a perennial issue for the tourism agency which is hampered by the twin problems of distance and expense.
Earlier, TA managing director John O’Sullivan told the conference said that while top of the holiday wish list among Chinese tourists, Australia was down in 10th place among destinations they actually visit.
“The aspiration is absolutely there and digital will play a big part in how we get consumers to convert and get them to make a decision to come here,” Ronson said.
“I am starting to form my thoughts [on how that is done] but I need a bit more time. But it’s about how we can provide a great customer experience.”
Ronson said her experience across a range of industries will serve her well in tourism, as will the banking sector’s sophistication in the digital arena.
“Tourism is a great industry. It’s exciting and dynamic and innovative and a rapidly changing environment, so it’s similar to banking in that regard.
“With the dramatic shift to mobile in the banking sector we went [at Westpac] from digital first to mobile first very quickly and the shift and adoption of mobile has been extraordinary.
“There is still a lot of opportunity in that area. The game is changing all the time and we need to get ahead of the game and utilise all our assets to make it easier for customers who are a long way away.”
Ronson added that putting the customer first was vital across all industries.
“I have worked in a diverse range of industries so I am a strong consumer and business marketer and if you understand the consumer and put them at the heart of your decisions you can succeed in any industry,” she said.
“They are not fundamentally different consumers whether they are banking or going on holiday.”
Mumbrella is hosting a one day Travel Marketing Summit which takes place in Sydney on Wednesday April 22.