Australian Tourism Exchange 2022, took place from 15-18 May in-person in Sydney and 24-26 May online. Although regrettably, I wasn’t able to attend physically in Sydney this year, I closely followed the updates and was delighted to see the event hosted 1,100 participants including buyers and media from more than 20 countries, after two years of lockdown.
On the online version, I was able to connect with many Australian suppliers, destinations, DMCs, ecolodges, media and get a grasp of the current market and trends. Adventure Travel has always been a strong asset in Australia, with its unique wildlife, and extraordinary nature playground so much that even while the borders were closed to the international market, many commented how busy they have been with the domestic market, thriving to rediscover their own land, connect to nature and stay active which helped many businesses to survive the pandemic.
Having said that, many of these experiences are considered premium price and designed for a high spending international market.
A Meditative Break
It also appears that this ‘forced pause’ was the opportunity to step back and meditate on how to do tourism better. Various businesses have been working hard on their Reconciliation Action Plan, developing and strengthening relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, such as Intrepid Travel, YHA or Tourism Australia with Discover Aboriginal Experiences.
Sustainability has also been a key focus of development, while more businesses are actively measuring their emissions and opting for various carbon emission solutions. Ecotourism Australia has done fantastic work in developing a new certification program and educating the sector. Tourism Tropical North Queensland, commented that they are working closely with members to reinvolve businesses in sustainability and that they are becoming a high eco certified destination.
Product development has also been key, using innovation and creativity to bring new exciting experiences in the market, such as Australian Wildlife Journeys’ director Jon Daw who explained how they focused on new experiences involving conservation work with a naturalist – as citizen science, including work with the Hervey Bay Pacific Whale Foundation. When Australia closed its border to the world two years ago, Tasmania’s local trade heroes took the time to reflect on how to improve the authentic and positive impact of travel in the destination and came up with new sustainable initiatives, in a challenging time for tourism in the pandemic these include a new Indigenous-owned-and-led culinary walk or expert-led retreat in yoga, art, writing, and photography.
It seems that the first market to recover is the long overdue visit to family and relatives, as Australians seek to reconnect with family and friends after an extended period of separation during the pandemic. Next in line is travel for holiday purposes, and the trend seen in Europe and North America is to travel less but better, and make it special. Thanks to the travel savings not spent during the COVID-19 period, it is time to hit that bucket list, and Australia is high on that list.
Hiking and cycling remain hot trends across the world, which explains the success of Great Walks of Australia even during the pandemic. You can refer to the 2022 Adventure Travel Industry snapshot for more details on the latest trends.
With Australia’s great work on sustainability faced with a stronger desire to have a deeper connection with the land and the slow travel movement, I believe the destination has all it takes for a speedy recovery.
Rendez-vous in the Gold Coast for #ATE2023 where I shall finally meet you all in person!