Evolving in the dynamic realm of tourism

JOS headshot  By John O’Sullivan, Managing Director, Tourism Australia

Over the past five decades, Australia’s place in the tourism sector has changed significantly. We have grown from a destination attracting 220,000 overseas visitors and contributing $74 million annually, to one that welcomed over eight and a half million visitors who spent almost $40 billion in 2016. Tourism is now Australia’s leading services export, employs five per cent of the Australian workforce and has grown on average at three times the rate of the broader Australian economy. Tourism Australia’s vision is to make Australia the most desirable and memorable destination on the planet.

As the world has become more interconnected, travelling internationally has become easier and more affordable than ever before.  The impact of technology and the new digital world in removing the inconveniences and obstacles once faced by international travellers means that travel has never been easier or more accessible. Couple this with a seemingly insatiable thirst for travel from Asia’s Middle Class and our industry has never experienced a more exciting, yet challenging time.

So what does this mean for Tourism Australia?

To start, we will continue to be agile, innovative and strategic in promoting Australia as an international destination of choice.  Seizing the many opportunities that will come Australia’s way, including tourism opportunities, will be a focus of the forthcoming Foreign Policy White Paper. Together with our colleagues from across government, Tourism Australia is helping to shape the development of the White Paper and will continue to play a key role in Australian foreign policy, including through programs such as Australia Business Weeks in our key markets, the G’Day USA program, and the 2017 China-Australia Year of Tourism, to name a few.

A Virtual Tour of Australia in NYC
Tourism Australia global ambassador Chris Hemsworth at G’Day USA. Image credit: Tourism Australia 

The success of our agency relies on not only actively seeking opportunities in markets that strengthen our relationship with other countries, but also being creative and dynamic in the way we work.  Tourism Australia’s culture is built around five key values, which are to be genuine, innovative, united, positive, and commercial. These underlie the decisions that we make in terms of how we market Australia globally and who we partner with to pursue our vision.

To marry innovation with commercial results, the Tourism Australia brand must be nimble. It must have an accurate understanding of our consumers’ needs, which must be met with high quality and adaptable products, experiences and services.

A great example of this is how we have changed our approach to targeting international travellers in order to maximise our marketing efforts.  Through new methods of market research, we have identified a new demographic of high value travellers – those who travel long haul, stay longer and spend more, and are already seeking what Australia has to offer, including our world class aquatic and coastal locations, food and wine, nature and wildlife experiences and unique indigenous experiences. These travellers can be Working Holiday Makers, Business Events delegates or leisure visitors.

TA Virtual Reality
Harnessing technologies such as virtual reality have enhanced Tourism Australia’s campaigns. Image credit: Tourism Australia 

Harnessing the power of social media and new technologies such as virtual reality has also enriched not only our brand, but the way we execute our marketing campaigns. For example, Tourism Australia’s @Australia pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have the largest following of any other tourism marketing body globally. In China our WeChat and Weibo accounts are amongst the largest and most engaged of any National Tourism Organisations operating in the market. These are invaluable tools for us to garner a treasure trove of content submitted by users and an effective means of showcasing the work of Australian tourism businesses.

The success of this approach allowed us, with our partner Qantas, to execute a hugely successful social media competition as part of the G’Day USA program earlier this year, inviting industry to submit their best posts from 2016 for the opportunity to win a trip to the G’Day Los Angeles Gala dinner. The exposure that the winners received was enormous.  As well as drawing attention to their own tourism offerings, the competition demonstrated to other tourism operators the power and potential of social media as a marketing tool.

Our Friends of Australia advocacy program further magnifies this potential, where we have harnessed the significant social followings of many prominent Australians and international figures – including Chris Hemsworth and Wu Xiubo who are our current ambassadors – encouraging them to tell their own stories and show the world why there’s nothing like Australia.

Wu Xiubo - FOA
Chinese actor Wu Xiubo being announced as a Tourism Australia ambassador. Image credit: Tourism Australia 


As Managing Director of Australia’s international tourism marketing agency, John is responsible for driving Tourism Australia’s strategies to increase demand for Australia’s tourism experiences and help to grow the sector to more than $115 billion by the end of the decade as part of the Tourism 2020 strategy.

John joined Tourism Australia in March 2014. He was previously Chief Operating Officer of Fox Sports. John has also held executive positions with Events Queensland (Chief Executive) and Football Federation Australia (Chief Commercial Officer), as well as with the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee. John has over 20 years’ experience in sports marketing, event management and media across Australia, the UK and the Middle East.


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