The 2012 Tourism & Events Excellence (TEE) Conference in Melbourne provided an intense two-day forum for industry leaders, business operators and policy makers to raise and discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the tourism and events industry in Australia.
While some of the challenges identified – such as the global and domestic economic challenges, and lack of accommodation, particularly in regional areas – are not new, the conference provided an opportunity to share ways of addressing these obstacles at both a grass-roots and strategic policy level. Other hurdles, such as Russel Howcroft’s revelations about how Australia and Australians are perceived by some of our key source markets, gave delegates pause for thought and stimulated discussion and media interest.
One of the key messages at the event was, of course, the urgent need to prepare Australia for unprecedented numbers of visitors from China, India and other key south-east Asian markets. Nevertheless, the audience was also warned against abandoning our traditional source markets, such as the United Kingdom, western Europe and the United States, despite the economic difficulties these regions are enduring. These markets will eventually recover and Australia must continue to make them welcome; we cannot afford to be fair weather friends.
Other key points included:
- the urgent need to invest in developing high quality tourism products and experiences
- the notion of re-positioning travel as “an investment in yourself” – a must-do, rather than a nice-to-do
- the need for greater uptake and use of digital technologies by tourism businesses, with a focus on converting the sale online.
This year’s delegates were treated to a number of thought-provoking presentations from national and international tourism leaders, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, Taleb Rifai, Federal Minister for Tourism Martin Ferguson, Victorian Minister for Tourism Louise Asher, Federal Shadow Minister for Tourism and Regional Development Bob Baldwin, Tourism Australia Managing Director Andrew McEvoy, Greg Moore, President and CEO of Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Mantra Group CEO Bob East and Professor Dimitrios Buhalis, President of the International Federation for Information Technologies in Travel and Tourism (IFITT) and Bournemouth University.
The conference theme was ‘Defining excellence’ and the speakers emphasised that excellence in tourism is manifested in many ways. It should characterise a visitor’s journey, from their first inspiration to travel (perhaps after seeing a Tourism Australia campaign) to the visa processing and airport arrival experience, from the transfer from the airport to their hotel – whether via taxi, rail or bus, and from the tours and activities they undertake to their restaurant and retail experiences.
As co-convenor of the TEE Conference, VTIC was very pleased with the delegate attendance and we thank principal sponsor Tourism Victoria and other corporate partners for their outstanding support of this event. In only its second year, the TEE Conference already seems to be secured on the calendar as the hallmark, must-attend conference delivered by industry for industry.