A travel trade primer for regional destinations

Traditionally, many of Australia’s regional destinations have relied on word-of-mouth and heritage travel for visitation.

But, in an increasingly competitive domestic market, the challenge now is how to engage beyond the traditional travellers, promote your region’s unique assets, and encourage visitors to book (and stay awhile.) While there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer, many destinations can benefit from investigating opportunities to tap into Australian and New Zealand travel trade distribution networks.

“It’s a good time for domestic destinations to be seeking out  travel trade distribution avenues, because the consumer is largely restricted to travelling in Australia; so by highlighting your product via those channels, you’re increasing awareness, increasing distribution, and highlighting the appeal of your destination.”

Penny Brand, Senior Account Manager at Gate 7

TRAVEL TRADE DISTRIBUTION

To illustrate the potential of the trade’s reach, Ms. Brand notes the mid-NSW coastal town of Port Macquarie’s first foray into a travel trade partnership.

By thinking outside the square, Port Macquarie looked at ways to increase its distribution through travel agency networks, making it contractable and selling the destination to the agents and their direct clients.

For instance, Port Macquarie’s initial campaign was a partnership with an online travel agent, Luxury Escapes, incorporating luxury accommodation at Mantra along with a wine tour and strawberry picking.

The results were quite spectacular, generating numbers usually seen with large-scale international campaigns. Luxury Escapes’ EDM reached 926,271 members; while 33 social media posts generated 508,983 impressions, 2,388 interactions, and 3,285 clicks. As a result, nearly 1,000 packages were sold during the campaign period, an ROI of 4,416 % from the campaign spend.

THE ART OF PRODUCT PACKAGING

The success of the Luxury Escapes campaign, Ms. Brand believes, was creating a new niche and targeting a demographic not normally associated with Port Macquarie and its family-friendly vibe.

“Australian consumers lacked awareness of Port Macquarie’s luxury offerings. This package highlights that the destination has properties with a high level of service; and it added value by including wine tasting, which Australians love to death, and strawberry picking which was really cute and unique.”

By packaging products into a compelling accommodation and activities bundle – particularly one that addresses current trends such as wellness or the environment – the consumer becomes locked into a more inclusive trip. It gives the client a set cost, things to do, and it keeps the travellers in the destination for longer, spending more money while they are there.

SIZE DOESN’T MATTER

To see the potential of product development, one need only look at how international destinations have successfully marketed their assets in partnership with the travel trade. For example, a targeted distribution strategy made in conjunction with the PR team at Gate 7 helped Californian destination North Lake Tahoe cement Australia as a key international market, increasing tourism product listings by 620% over the course of four years and increasing in-destination spend by 99.5% over three years.

The key to this success was repositioning the destination as a more prestigious voice, enhancing its premier snow/ski status, developing year-round product distribution, and driving awareness of the region’s tourism products amongst the travel trade.

“No matter how small a destination is, it’s still totally achievable for them to get great mainstream distribution through the Australian travel trade,” Ms. Brand says. “If it has product and reasons for people to visit, it’s achievable for even the tiniest spot to make its stamp.”

HITTING THE ‘BOOK NOW’ BUTTON

Another key to successful packaging is to encourage the client to book their holiday right now. While international travellers tend to be a captive audience, domestic travellers often need to be nudged with more urgency, lured by limited offers, time-sensitive add-ons, and flexible booking conditions.

“The three driving factors to get consumers across the line and book now are a good value tactical price, with value-adds or exclusives, and flexibility to the consumer – a peace-of-mind guarantee that they rebook at any time should the circumstances change,” says Penny Brand.

ENGAGING TRAVEL TRADE AT THE FRONT LINE

Finally, with face-to-face meetings still largely off-the-cards in the ever-evolving COVID climate, regional destinations and businesses should also look to left-of-centre opportunities to engage with the travel trade. This might include utilising creative resources such as virtual roadshows to inspire, forge memorable experiences, and reach niche retailers; or be as simple as contributing to trade news through well-regarded communication channels such as KARRYON. The Gate 7 Resource Centre is another valuable one-stop portal that provides information and updates from clients to the travel agent and media communities.

One example of a successful and socially-focused campaign offering innovative “in the trenches” empathy to the travel trade is Brand USA’s One Badge Wonder training incentive. This initiative creatively found a way to drive agent training through the USA Discovery Program by offering utilitarian incentives such as supermarket vouchers to alleviate financial stress during lockdown. This not only reduced prizing costs for Brand USA, but it represented a valuable incentive for agents in the short-term.

It’s all part of nurturing relationships that will have long-term benefits, an investment that will undoubtedly see your business grow and flourish beyond the current crisis.

Regional Tourism Operators – Do you need help maximising travel trade distribution for your destination? Start with our Distribution Analysis and Packaging Fundamentals program. A simple, two-step process analyses your current distribution through 24 well-known travel brands with recommendations for further expansion. We also help you empower your local community of operators with an educational webinar and tools to help them engage travel trade.