Southern USA Charm Down Under


When Gate 7 was tasked with coordinating Travel South USA’s bi-annual Australian Sales Mission, the Trade and PR teams had to find new ways to increase attendance, maximise engagement, and boost travel destination knowledge of the Southern States in a cluttered market.

By bringing Southern USA charm to life, collaborating with Rhythms of the South and presenting world class musicians to Australia, the team received universal praise for the events, with the attendees rating the experience 4.5 out of 5. The engaging content and entertaining schedule helped agents retain destination information and facilitated media coverage in top tier trade and consumer media titles.

Key Figures

Background and Challenge

As the Australian travel market bounces back post-pandemic, destinations worldwide are competing to reengage with the Australian travel trade and increase Australian visitation. A significant number of International Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) are actively promoting travel from Australia to their counties, the most aggressive advertisers including New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Additionally, Australia has also recently witnessed the establishment of offices by newcomers like Greece and Spain, cluttering the market even further. ​

Many DMOs across the US are once again active in the Australian market and are vying for Australian visitation. The strong US dollar and high inflation in the US combined with tightening economic conditions also make it an expensive destination to visit. Ultimately, this cluttered market leaves the Australian Travel Trade time poor for education experiences. Similarly, travel media is equally as competitive. Earned coverage remains a challenging pursuit as publishers grapple with a backlog of promised coverage and prioritize pay-to-play partnerships with destinations worldwide.

Gate 7 was engaged by Travel South to drive their goal of delivering $10B in global visitor spend by 2025. This included crafting a comprehensive, high-impact bi-annual Sales Mission to coincide with their ongoing marketing efforts to the Australian market and equip Australian travel trade and media with the knowledge of, and product to sell in the 9 GGP states.

Strategy and Solution

In June of 2023, Travel South USA & 15 partners headed Down Under for the annual Sales Mission. Gate 7, on behalf of Travel South USA, coordinated a series of Travel Trade & Media events across 3 major Australian cities (Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney) to allow for quality networking time with frontline agents and key decision-makers, the opportunity to educate the market on the region as well as media engagement.

As the key message, Gate 7’s team wanted to emphasize Travel South’s unique culturally authentic point-of-difference in the crowded industry. The region offers Australians an entirely different proposition to that offered by the more visited west coast – led by its renowned barbecues, warm hospitality and Rhythms of the South.

Wanting attendees to experience that warm, Southern USA welcome, the teams innovatively brought the destination to life through authentic activations that only the South can provide. Think: a Bourbon station, Southern inspired food for the soul, and music for heart. Each exhibitor from the region was tasked to bring unique items that represent their destinations, further strengthening connection between exhibitors and attendees.

Gate 7 collaborated with Delta Air Lines to highlight connectivity into the South and provide a major prize for each city, a huge drawcard for trade and media attendees. The major prize giveaway “Win a trip to the South” included return flights sponsored by Delta Air Lines, and $1,500 worth of land product in the Travel South USA region.  To further increase participation, the Gate 7 team created an immersive gamification entry mechanic to the prize. A ‘ Travel South Passport’ was given to each attendee with a page dedicated to each exhibitor. To enter the prize, agents had to engage with exhibitors and write 3 key selling points for each.

Furthermore, Travel South and Gate 7 called upon an act the calibre of Tennessee’s Grammy award-winning duo, Louis York (Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony), who performed at each event, courtesy of sponsors Rhythms of the South. The PR team were tasked to obtain coverage and media interviews for Louis York to showcase Southern USA as the perfect diverse collection of musical states and cities for an Aussies’ next road trip holiday. While communicating key messages such as how they combine musical genres from three distinct Southern cities, it was also important to highlight why Aussies should visit Atlanta, Nashville, and New Orleans to further increase awareness of the destinations.

Results and Learnings

350+ agents were trained across three events in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney with 20 trade meetings, 1 VIP lunch, 1 B2B event. We also received fantastic feedback from agents who attended our events, and great exposure through agent’s social media. Qualitative feedback from agents and media attendees applauded exhibitors for the attention to detail and the level of engagement involved in the events.

Gate 7’s PR team garnered 30 media meetings and secured coverage for Louis York on Channel 9’s Today Extra and the Daily Telegraph, which collectively reached 536,000 Australian & New Zealand consumers, worth an estimated $118,250 in PR value. The PR team also secured editorial pieces for the Travel South Sales Mission which were placed in some of the country’s most widely circulated publications, including the Daily Telegraph, KarryOn and other travel trade publications.

These strong results solidified a long-term relationship between Gate 7 and Travel South USA, and reinforced Gate 7’s strategic insight to highlight Travel South USA’s unique offering to create awareness in a market crowded with big players.