Time to Tell it how it is
I had the misfortune of reading yet another depressing article in the media this week on the state of tourism in Australia. It was posted in the Sydney Morning Herald, so it is conceivable that the article was influenced by the well documented difficulties experienced by the tourism industry in the Emerald City; but fair crack of the whip anyone would think that the tourism industry in this country is on its last legs!
This unfortunate article presents the same statistics and formulaic thinking that has beset the tourism industry for nearly a decade (may be longer). The doom and gloom scenarios help sell newspapers, but in this instance do little to inform Australians about the true story underpinning the Australian tourism industry.
They also undermine the confidence of Australians contemplating a holiday in their own country (if you doubt this just scan through the 65 plus responses to the article). When we as an industry feed the ‘media dragon’ with stories of woe and despair, we are broadcasting the worst aspects of our business to our most important market.
This blog is not a criticism of the fourth estate. As an industry we have a responsibility to start talking up the offer. People go on holiday to have a good time… they want reassurance that what is on offer close to home is worth visiting. It is plain commonsense.
While our journalists and big business leaders are busy criticising our national brand campaigns and the efforts of Tourism Australia, we as an industry are watching our best customers – the locals – shaking their head in doubt… It is locals who drive the Visiting Friends and Relatives market, it is locals who respond during natural disasters by putting their hands in their pockets and spending money in affected regions.
Every time we publicly throw our hands up in the air, we are telling our best customers that we are not capable of providing them with a quality visitor experience. As an industry it is time we started building goodwill with our best customers and stop publicly tugging the pocket of Government.
Tourism employs hundreds of thousands of people and underpins the economic success of capital cities, regional centres and rural communities. When leading identities from business and government continually question or downplay the viability of the industry to score political points and deflect attention from their own performance, they are scoring runs at the expense of the tourism industry.
It is time for the industry to face up to itself and stop staring at its navel. In business (and politics) there is always someone else to blame for our misfortune. How about we take responsibility for our own destiny? Lets take the difficult conversations the industry needs to have behind closed doors and stop washing our laundry in public. The only winners from public self-flagellation are the media outlets and cheap overseas holiday destinations.