Tourism Australia has signed three important strategic marketing deals in China this week aimed at promoting Australia to high yielding travellers and business events professionals in an overseas tourism market now valued at $5.7 billion annually.
The wide-reaching, multiple marketing deals consist of partnership agreements with two major airlines – China Eastern Airlines and Singapore Airlines – as well as with one of one of China’s largest e-commerce companies specialising in travel services, Alibaba.
The commercial deals were all signed in Shanghai by Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan, its outgoing Chairman Geoff Dixon and new Regional General Manager for Greater China, Andrew Hogg.
Mr O’Sullivan said each of the agreements were different in nature but, together, would help strengthen distribution and Australia’s ability to target China’s rapidly growing and lucrative free and independent travel (FIT) segment.
The first deal was signed with Alibaba, one of China’s largest e-commerce companies, which provides businesses with online payment and search services. The company has recently launched an electronic transaction site called Alipay, where Chinese consumers can purchase customised travel packages.
Under the new, three-year partnership, Australia will become the first overseas long-haul destination to have its own dedicated sales webpage on Alitrip’s website. The portal will be co-branded using ‘There’s Nothing Like Australia’ campaign assets and feature Australian travel packages offered by Tourism Australia’s dedicated network of preferred travel distribution partners in China.
Mr O’Sullivan said the deal would help tap into the fast growing online travel market in China, allowing Tourism Australia and its state and territory tourism partners to target the Chinese FIT market with highly personalised travel packages.
“The partnership with AliBaba is a landmark deal since it gives us a huge distribution and conversion platform within our most valuable international market. It also gives us access to consumer data which will help us better target our destination message and sell quality Australian holiday packages within a market which is already worth $5.7 billion a year to us,” he said.
The second deal signed in China was with China Eastern Airlines. The new deal extends an existing memoranda of understanding by a further three years and will see the two parties jointly spend up to $11.5 million on campaigns and other marketing activities at a time when the airline expects to significantly expand its services to Australia. A key feature of the agreement will see China Eastern, Tourism Australia and its key distribution partners in China work collaboratively on building and selling travel packages.
China Eastern Airlines currently operates 68 direct flights a week between Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing in China and Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns in Australia.
The final agreement with Singapore Airlines focuses on business events within the Greater China market, complementing and existing MoU already in place between the two parties which covers the leisure market.
Under the new agreement, the two parties will each contribute A$1.35 million towards jointly developing a range of campaigns, marketing and promotion activities within Greater China, targeting MICE agents and corporate buyers.
Mr O’Sullivan said the three deals would give Tourism Australia significant competitive advantage in a market which was being aggressively targeted by an increasing number of global tourism destinations.
“As the first Western market to be given Approved Destination Status back in 1999, I suppose we enjoyed a bit of a competitive advantage in this market, but any head start has long since been lost with 130 other countries now actively marketing to the Chinese. These deals aim to keep us ahead of the pack,” he said.
Mr Dixon said the three partnerships were critical to Tourism Australia in terms of increasing customer reach, reinforcing destination messaging and, ultimately, converting awareness and intent into actual travel bookings.
“These are three partners who are well established within China and who also have the ability to reach our target customer. What’s so important about these deals is that it gives us strong commercial platforms to convert new and high yielding business for Australia,” Mr Dixon said.
He said the new marketing agreements would provide significant impetus to the latest phase of Tourism Australia’s Restaurant Australia campaign, which was already seeing strong results within China.
The three deals signed in Shanghai complement other destination marketing and distribution activities already being undertaken by Tourism Australia for the China visitor market, including developing a new network of specialist travel agencies to sell high yielding Australian holiday packages.
Tourism Australia is also developing a second version of its bespoke australia.cn website, specifically for the China market.
China is currently Australia’s second largest inbound market in terms of visitor numbers with 839,500 visitor arrivals in 2014, up 18.4 per cent on 2013, and worth A$5.7 billion in overnight visitor expenditure.