Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison talks to VENTURE about the country as a luxury destination, unique experiences, and what’s next

tourism australia, the venture magazineRare, unique, exclusive. That’s how Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison describes luxury. Those words also describe the destination she markets to a T.

“Australia has its own genuine style of luxury,” she told VENTURE, “that is reflective of our spectacular natural environment, our exceptional food and wine offering, and our people.”

That’s been enough to attract more than 9 million international visitors on an annual basis, pumping $44 billion into the economy. Add domestic travellers to the mix, and you have $122 billion worth of economic impact and direct employment for more than half a million Australians.

Given such a spectacular canvas to work with, it might seem Tourism Australia’s job is easy. But with fierce competition from emerging destinations for the attention of high value travelers, Harrison and her team have their work cut out for them. This is how they do it.

Signature Experiences

As a previous Tourism Australia campaign said, there’s nothing like Australia. To that end, they highlight Signature Experiences that are uniquely Australian and showcase the diversity of life Down Under. The eight signature collections represent 180 members providing more than 700 experiences across all states and territories.

“These collections include luxury lodges, guided walks, great golf courses, fishing, wildlife, wineries, outstanding cultural attractions and exceptional Aboriginal experiences,” Harrison said, “All delivered with a warm, uniquely Australian style of service.”

tourism australia, the venture magazineSince culture is such a big part of experiential luxury travel, Tourism Australia partnered with Cultural Attractions of Australia to afford visitors access to behind-the-scenes experiences in iconic places “whether it’s gracing the stage of the Sydney Opera House in a cameo walk-on role or enjoying an evening of art, music, and fine dining with a Private Gallery Dinner at National Gallery (NGV) in Melbourne,” Harrison said.

Harrison said research shows that 93 per cent of high value travellers seek authentic experiences and 73 per cent look for purposeful travel that allows them to appreciate and give back to their destination. Few journeys are as profound, she said, as the immersions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture offered as part of the Discover Aboriginal Experiences collection. The number of international visitors participating in at least one indigenous tourism activity has increased by an average of 9 per cent per year since 2013.

‘Come Live Our Philausophy’

Though the increasing ease of air travel and long-haul flights, such as the London to Sydney nonstop Qantas, have made getting to Australia easier, it’s still a faraway destination for many high value travellers, especially Europeans and Americans. Tourism Australia have to combat that, as well as “increased competition from other destinations and how to stand out in a sea of sameness in destination marketing,” Harrison said.

One way to stand out is to enlist Melbourne-born Chris Hemsworth as a global ambassador. Since his 2016 appointment, Hemsworth has generated more than 9000 media articles promoting Australia, creating more than 19 billion impressions. Hemsworth also appeared in the ‘Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns Home’ campaign in 2018, which hearkened back to Paul Hogan’s iconic character and Hogan’s role in the ‘Come Say G’Day’ campaign.

tourism australia, the venture magazineBoth leaned into the unique Australian way of looking at life, and Tourism Australia’s new ‘Come Live Our Philausophy’ campaign embraces that as well. Rolling out in early 2020, the campaign will feature celebrities such as Hogan, Hemsworth, Adam Hills, Ben Shewry, Curtis Stone, Dr. Terri Irwin, Kathy Lette, Kylie Kwong, Kylie Minogue, Laura Brown, Mick Fanning, Mike Cannon-Brookes, and Warwick Thornton sharing what the Australian way of life means to them.

‘Come Live Our Philausophy’ will highlight Australia’s greatest assets: food and wine, aquatic and coastal experiences, and nature and wildlife. Above all, Harrison said, it’s Australia’s people and their informal approach to living that attract visitors. ‘Shoes optional,’ is the title of one advert.

Old and New

tourism australia, the venture magazineThere’s so much to experience across 7.7 million square kilometres of Australia, it’s hard to know where to begin. Harrison recommends experiencing major cities and the regions outside them to get a feel for nature, the coast, and the culinary scene.

Lately, Perth, Brisbane, and Tasmania have emerged to join Sydney and Melbourne as sought-after destinations. Since 2012, Perth has seen 34 hotels built or refurbished, adding more than 4000 rooms, with a further 23 hotels and 3661 rooms coming by 2022. “The brand-new Optus Stadium Perth, state buildings including Treasury Como Hotel, a new Ritz-Carlton as part of the Elizabeth Quay redevelopment, the InterContinental Perth, the Westin hotel, Crown Perth Towers and QT Perth all provide new, high-quality options for accommodation, dining, and events,” Harrison said.

The heritage Howard Smith Wharves are part of a vibrant redevelopment that has transformed Brisbane. New hotel openings have included the newest addition to the Art Series hotels, The Fantauzzo at Howard Smith Wharves, and the Calile in Fortitude Valley.

The Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), brainchild of maverick multi-millionaire businessman David Walsh, is the centrepiece of Tasmania’s cultural renaissance. It’s a “ground-breaking subterranean gallery that’s home to one of the most controversial private collections of modern art and antiquities on the planet. The site also encompasses its own winery, brewery, bars, restaurants, and a set of eight specially designed pavilions that you can stay in overnight.”

Seeing as Tourism Australia have already surpassed their Tourism 2020 goal of $115 billion annual visitor expenditure, they’re turning their attention beyond 2020, out to 2030. The overarching emotional goal, however, remains unchanged.

“Ultimately,” Harrison said, “it is about creating and giving visitors to Australia memories to last a lifetime and inspiration to return and explore more of our country in years to come.”