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Travel marketers need to be aware of luxury guests’ changing tastes, says tourism boss

Luxury travel is changing and marketers have to be acutely aware of guests’ desires for natural experiences and sustainability, a top tourism exec has warned.

“A niche that was once defined by the amount of marble in the foyer, the thread count in the linen and the quality of toiletries, is now focused on buzzwords like ‘off the beaten track’ and immersive,” said Anna Guillan, regional sales and marketing director at One&Only resorts and vice chair of Tourism Australia.

One&Only’s Guillan: ‘The remote, unique and unknown location and develop this as a strength’

Guillan was speaking at the Mumbrella Luxury Marketing Summit in Sydney about the challenges facing the company’s Wolgan Valley resort.

“Luxury travellers have a growing desire for unspoiled natural beauty in the destinations they choose. The interests of luxury travellers is evolving and they are shaking up the luxury industry at the moment.”

The Wolgan Valley resort is very much off the tourism industry’s beaten track, located in an isolated valley north of Lithgow, three hours’ drive – or a 35 minute helicopter ride – from Sydney.

The challenge facing Guillan and One&Only resorts, the operator of the complex, was that most guests were weekending couples from Sydney, leaving the business too focused on one category and the vagaries of the local market.

Diversifying the customer base was the first objective when the operator took over management of the complex in 2014.

The first marketing decision One&Only made was to make the resort the “hero”, given its isolated location on the edge of two national parks west of the Blue Mountains.

“Being part of the environment and experiencing nature at its best and most purest are key elements that the luxury travellers are seeking,” Guillan said.

“We simply decided that the resort was the hero and our mission was to put the resort on the map.”

“While the location was a pristine, 7,000 acre nature reserve. It wasn’t an Uluru, it wasn’t the Kimberleys or The Great Ocean Road.”

“The remote, unique and unknown location and develop this as a strength.”

With a small marketing budget, Guillan decided to focus on a PR campaign and a B2B strategy of marketing to the travel industry for the key UK, US and Chinese markets. “The sales team used old-fashioned shoe leather and went out on the road,” said Guillan

At the same time as launching the PR campaign, Guillan also focused on family and corporate markets, offering management treats and employee reward packages with a focus on activities around the natural features surround the resort.

The activities also saw the resort partner with other luxury brands including a gin maker and visiting wellness practitioners. “Our collaborations were based on an effective and sincere desire of mutual benefit.”

“The result of those efforts was over the last four years, we’ve grown our international business to 30% of the guest mix. At the same time, our Australian share has grown to the highest its ever been,” concluded Guillan.

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