Port Macquarie Embraces Travel Trade Distribution

Port Macquarie-Hastings Council wanted to help their local tourism operators reach new consumer segments, increase visitation, and kick-start their businesses following a difficult 12 months for the region. As just one element of a broader, holistic strategy, Gate 7 developed a cooperative marketing campaign with online retailer Luxury Escapes targeting their extensive database of high-value customers with a tactical package deal supported by inspiring destination content and PR. The campaign proved to be a huge boost for Port Macquarie’s tourism sector, with nearly 1,000 packages sold by the featured local operator, and almost 5,000 travellers booking to visit the destination.

Background and challenge

Port Macquarie, on the New South Wales mid-North Coast, has traditionally been a seasonal, family friendly, tourist destination with large portions of business from repeat travellers each summer. Following its globally publicised battle with bushfires over the 2019/20 summer season, the destination was again put under strain by the impact of Coronavirus restrictions, devastating many tourism operators’ bottom lines and spurring the region’s council into action.

Neither the destination nor its local operators had much experience working with Australian travel trade to attract domestic travellers, much like many regional Australian destinations. Many operators lacked a full understanding of the trade landscape and didn’t know how to identify or leverage travel trade opportunities and relationships. Looking to expand the region’s appeal beyond historic market segments, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council engaged Gate 7 to craft an integrated marketing strategy to establish a stronger relationship with the travel trade, educate local stakeholders, and create new avenues of opportunity to increase visitation to the region.

Strategy and solution

Gate 7 presented a holistic series of programs to Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to help their stakeholders leverage Gate 7’s relationships with key Australian travel trade to begin forging their own connections. This broad strategy started with product distribution analysis programs as well as a webinar to educate local operators on the logistics and benefits of working with the travel trade.

To prove the power of trade partnerships and distribution, Gate 7 proposed a range of retailers for a cooperative marketing campaign, ultimately crafting and executing a comprehensive, co-operative marketing strategy with online retailer Luxury Escapes. Reaching a high-value target segment of Australian luxury travellers, Luxury Escapes maintains an extensive, and highly engaged database of consumers, making them the perfect partner for Port Macquarie’s pilot travel trade co-op campaign.

The benefits of the partnership between Port Macquarie and Luxury Escapes extended beyond the reach of their database, however. Gate 7 was aware of the significant portion of Luxury Escapes members who retained sizeable travel credits with the retailer, thanks to trips that were postponed or cancelled earlier in the year, and due to Luxury Escapes’ partnership with the Qantas Frequent Flyer loyalty program. The brand allows bookings direct from the consumer as well as through the travel trade, offering critical flexibility in an environment where rigidity has become a barrier for travellers.

The featured package included a 3-, 5-, or 7-night stay at the Mantra the Observatory, a tour of regional wineries, and a day of strawberry picking at a local farm. The package was launched alongside a raft of bespoke evergreen inspirational content on the Luxury Escapes e-newsletter, digital magazine, and social channels, including a Port Macquarie takeover of the Luxury Escapes Instagram account. This content campaign was heavily promoted for the first week of the month-long campaign, with continued promotion of the tactical deal continuing throughout. Thanks to Gate 7’s on-going PR work with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, the full integration of the content, messaging and trade elements was a natural and extremely powerful mix.

Results and learnings

Anecdotally, the campaign was said to have performed “exceptionally well” for a domestic client, and the success has spurred Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to further invest in trade development.

During the one-month campaign, Luxury Escapes sold 995 packages, consisting of 3,177 room nights and 4,873 pax. This constituted considerable revenue for the Mantra, achieving a huge ROI for the Port Macquarie stakeholders involved. The content campaign also made a significant impact, reaching over 500,000 engaged users across 33 social media posts.

Gate 7 has also committed to directly supporting operators, as well as the Council. More operator education webinars around packaging accommodation and attractions have been conducted, and operators are seeing new opportunities arise thanks to their new-found relationship with the travel trade.

Future cooperative marketing campaigns are being planned, leveraging different trade partners and operators to target a broader segment of Australian travellers. Beyond cooperative marketing, Gate 7 is working on launching more trade-focused campaigns, such as “Facebook Live” agent destination training, more in-depth product distribution analysis and development, and even a possible launch into the New Zealand travel trade market as borders reopen.

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.