When you’re a new small regional tourism business, entering the international stage is a daunting prospect. It really didn’t occur to us until after we’d been operating for a year to think beyond our own back yard. After all, a large majority of our guests are domestic and hale from one of the three main centres of Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne.
It’s no big deal to entice people to Australia for holidays – our island home is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. But it’s a big world out there and although we know what we’ve got to offer to someone who wants to get amongst nature, operators must meet the highest possible standards to have any hope of welcoming international visitors on a regular basis.
Last year, we’d been in business for just 18 months and Destination NSW suggested that our tours would be attractive to visitors from overseas and offered their assistance in introducing us to many international inbound agents. In the industry, it’s known as being ‘export ready’. (I know, it still sounds weird to me, too.) So how do you become ‘export ready’?
“Stepping up to a level that ticks all the boxes for international visitors encouraged us to finesse absolutely every aspect of the tours – and this has paid off with a rapid increase in bookings from domestic tourists – which is still by far the majority of our guests.”
So what do you have to do differently? Not a lot. Our reviews are excellent so we knew we were pretty close to being spot on. But you need to provide international agents all they need to sell your ‘product’ (aka: tour) from their retail presence on the mall in Munich, or Amsterdam or London. Some are givens – do you have a website that is easily navigated, a streamlined online booking system, fantastic images, some video.
And then there’s all the other stuff: Fact Sheets on each tour including full itinerary, rates, terms and conditions, high resolution images for them to use….the list goes on. But there is a bit of fun involved – we’ve recently hosted eight international travel agents for a lunch tour and were thankful that Mother Nature put on a superb day. The group – from Hong Kong, Singapore and several from Europe – were here for the 2017 Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE). This is the largest gathering of tourist operators, agents etc. in the country and is held annually.
ATE is for the big guys – multi million dollar tour operators and chains – all vying for the attention of our visitors. But more and more we are seeing interest from internationals in getting back to nature, experiencing ‘authentic’ Australia, stepping outside their comfort zone. A kayak tour on a beautiful Australian estuary presses all the right buttons – this place is so stunning, and the paddling so easy, that we don’t have much trouble telling people about it.
We don’t expect to be over-run with visitors from afar – for a while yet. But who knows where this new journey will take us. In the meantime, we’re about to do some annual maintenance on gear so it’s bright and shiny and ready to go. We think we’ll get a few international visitors during our very mild winter….
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