Time for a pop quiz down-under style. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of bringing a group to Australia? Is it the iconic Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, picturesque Sydney harbor, outback tours and Barossa Valley’s award-winning Shiraz wines? Perhaps, after you put aside the image of baby kangaroos running away from out-of-control fire. But did you know that only three percent of the country (which by the way is the size of the United States) was affected by the fires at the end of 2019? And those bush areas are quickly recovering.

Chris Allison, head of commercial partnerships, The Americas, with Tourism Australia was bringing that message on a road trip of the United States to clear up any misconceptions that might be lingering after all the negative television coverage. “The reality is that we are open for business and we are the same great location and an incredible value right now,” he said to a full room of travel brokers at Hyatt Centric Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco on Wednesday night.

“Most of the tourist areas were not affected and 150 miles of coast never saw any smoke,” he said. Very few groups cancelled as most operators were back in business within days, even if they had to adjust their itinerary based on the wind patterns.

Now the hard work of changing public perception begins. A big sale sticker might help. In addition to deals from airlines, hotels and tour operators hungry for business, the exchange rate is now a bargain at 67 cents on the dollar.

A New Challenge

The appeal to tourists is even more critical now as the country is getting hit again by the sudden cut-off of tourists from its largest source of visitors as China is not letting any groups depart due to COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Allison reported that many groups are looking for ways to help. Tourism Australia is putting together CSR and education activities to help visitors connect with the community. But the best way to help, he said with a grin, is to bring your group and come say g’day in person.

Map of Australia. Selective Focus.

 

 

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