Ruby the Roo may not solve international tourism problems, say SMEs

Source: 7 News/Tourism Australia

Tourism Australia has unveiled its latest advertising campaign designed to appeal to international visitors, as the country’s small businesses recover from the devastating impact of COVID-19 restrictions – and battle further economic turbulence at home and abroad.

But some small businesses worry that the campaign relies too heavily on “cliché” and “unsophisticated” portrayals.

Appearing in Tokyo on Tuesday, Trade and Tourism Minister Don Farrell officially revealed Ruby the Kangaroothe new face of Australia’s international tourism brand.

Voiced by Australian actress Rose Byrne, Ruby the Roo, a fluffy computer-generated mascot, will grace billboards in Shinjuku, Singapore, London and New York.

The promotional material will also showcase some of Australia’s most notable tourist destinations, including Uluru.

The campaign will help convert “pent-up demand for Australian holidays into bookings” in 15 international markets, Farrell said.

New campaign arrives as old tourist markets disappear

The campaign, the latest installment of Tourism Australia’s international campaign There’s nothing like Australia The PR push is putting significant pressure on a digital marsupial to undo the damage caused by punitive border closures.

New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that nearly eight months after the national border fully reopened to international visitors, tourism figures are still significantly below pre-COVID levels.

More than 348,000 short-term visits to Australia were recorded in August 2022, the data shows, compared to just 6,390 in August 2021.

But the number of short trips recorded in August this year was less than half of the 789,000 recorded in August 2019 before the pandemic.

The decline in tourism from China compounds the problem.

While the new ad campaign targets Singapore, the US, UK and Japan – already ranked third, fourth, fifth and sixth in terms of short-term visitor arrivals in August – Australia has no recorded only 8,390 short-term visitor arrivals from China over the month.

In August 2019, before the pandemic, that figure stood at 128,280, more than any other country.

China’s strict lockdown and border control measures in response to new waves of COVID-19 have limited travel outside the country, putting traditional foreign hotspots like Australia at a distinct disadvantage.

Global currency fluctuations are also taking their toll on foreign tourists, who could postpone their travel plans if their purchasing power diminishes.

And the threat of another La Niña weather system could still hamper another peak tourist season for east coast operators.

Companies are looking for support beyond a digital kangaroo

Margy Osmond, head of cutting-edge tourism industry body the Tourism and Transport Forum, said the new campaign will build on Australia’s established international brand.

“We need targeted campaigns like this, backed by market research, to help entice overseas visitors to return to our shores once again,” she told SmartCompany.

“While domestic tourism has rebounded, international visitors to Australia are still well below pre-Covid levels and local tourism operators are still suffering.

“This campaign will help remind the world that Australia’s borders are open and our tourism industry is keen to welcome more visitors.”

Amid Australia’s current COVID-19 recovery, and with further economic turmoil likely, smaller tourism operators suggest the local industry needs more than just a cute advertising campaign to revitalize the sector.

Jen Clark, founder of sustainable tourism accommodation directory Hosting With Heart, fears the campaign relies too much on “cliché” and “unsophisticated” portrayals.

The industry would benefit if international campaigns shifted “towards more nuanced advertising that represents the incredible diversity of experiences available here,” she said. SmartCompany.

Other opportunities lie in promoting ethical and sustainable tourist attractions to foreign audiences, she adds.

“Travelers are increasingly savvy about choosing vacation destinations that they believe align with their personal values, especially young people.

“The government needs to better reward operators who are motivated to improve the ethics of the sector as a whole.”

While federal and state governments have already provided tens of millions of dollars in grants to tourism operators hampered by pandemic restrictions, Clark says the public sector could still “better support small operators” through training opportunities and of mentoring.

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