New tourism strategy: Stopping the spread, then spreading the word

Tourism Australia is looking for media minders and influencer handlers for local junkets, and expects to be showing them around in summer. It might be a tricky job.

Aug 20, 2020, updated Aug 20, 2020
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate wants to lure Olympic officials and some athletes to stay on the Gold Coast should we win the 2032 Games(Photo: ABC)

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate wants to lure Olympic officials and some athletes to stay on the Gold Coast should we win the 2032 Games(Photo: ABC)

In January, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced almost $10m in funding for Tourism Australia’s International Media Hosting Program (IMHP) to extend its work to helping with the economic recovery in bushfire-affected areas.

The IMHP would normally see 800-1,000 international journalists and social media influencers come to Australia and return home to promote their experiences.

But then the pandemic hit, borders were restricted, and the tourism sector – like the rest of the economy – was thrown into turmoil. Travel to Australia, and within Australia, is still a difficult exercise, and community transmission of COVID-19 in southern states has delayed the economic recovery.

This week, Tourism Australia called tenders for service providers keen to coordinate and host media, influencer and broadcast visits through the IMHP. It expects them to start work in December.

The tender documents make no mention of COVID-19, nor how Tourism Australia would manage the border restrictions. Tourism Australia has yet to respond to questions, however one possible solution is engaging more local journalists and social media influencers to help spread the word. The intended audience is unclear.

Tourism Australia is prepared for other potential threats to the success of the IMHP program. It has asked would-be providers to detail how they might respond in certain situations, ranging from an approaching bushfire or cyclone to the media being involved in a hot air balloon accident. Some scenarios might require a different form of diplomacy.

“Two days into a two-week visit to QLD and SA, an influencer decides they want to make extensive changes to the itinerary you have arranged,” state the tender documents.

“Tourism and Events Queensland also advises you that the influencer has arrived at a number of activities with their sister, which was not previously mentioned to Tourism Australia or the (Queensland organisation). How would you handle this situation?”

That scenario pales in comparison to what the tourism and hospitality sector is experiencing. The impact of COVID-19, including travel restrictions and social distancing requirements, may end up costing billions of dollars. As Queensland Tourism Industry Council chief executive Daniel Gschwind said recently, “the prospect of this playing out for an indeterminate time is grim”.

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