Our key Takeaways from the Victorian Tourism Conference 2021
Home » Learning Hub » Destinations » Our key Takeaways from the Victorian Tourism Conference 2021

Our key Takeaways from the Victorian Tourism Conference 2021

By Paige Rowett
Published on April 27, 2021
Tourism ESchool Key Takeaways From The Victorian Tourism Conference 2021

Last week we attended the 2021 Victorian Tourism Conference, which featured a fantastic lineup of speakers who shared some excellent insights which I've shared below (in note form) on the current state of play for the Victorian visitor economy and opportunities for destinations and operators.


Martin Pakula

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events

Official Welcome


  • Challenging times, contended with COVD bushfires, fair way to go… slower than expected vaccine rollout
  • Estimated decline of 60% visitation as against 2019 data. Tourism spend hasn’t been that low for 15 yrs.
  • Resumption of domestic travel in significant numbers, food, wine, sport, culture
  • Today marks significant step for the industry
  • Government is committed to ensuring our tourism sector thrives again
  • Regional tourism has an incredibly important role to play in recovery.
  • Just released the Victorian Visitor Economy Recovery and Reform Plan
    • Supply and demand pillars - Many initiatives already in early stages of delivery
    • Renewed focus on capability building - $8million allocated to  digital and business capability
    • Help rebuild and strengthen workforce
    • Timely opportunity to do it, whilst businesses are in quiet period
  • From 1st July Victorian Regions will engage with government directly rather than through Visit Victoria
  • Visit Victoria
    • Marketing - $58m Visit Victoria marketing activities to build demand through RTBs, LGAs and tourism organisations - Voucher scheme (Immediate stimulus - $100m spent already in regional Victoria, number operators ⅘ visitors have used vouchers) 'Click for VIC', 'Stay Close Go Further', 'Visit Melbourne' campaigns
    • Events - $38m per annum for 3 years to pursue new events, blockbuster events, and (to a lesser degree at the moment( international visitors to Victoria - specific focus and funds to drive regional visitation for the fund too. Regional events are important part of picture. $20M to go toward 200 regional events across the state.
    • Infrastructure designated for regions - $149m have been spent for flagship tourism infrastructure. Additional $36m shovel ready projects
    • Drink Victoria program - looking at innovating way to support our winemakers, distillers, brewers. Objective is to get more locally produced product in Melbourne restaurant menus.


Lisa MacCallum

Founder and President - Inspired Companies

The Inspired Company Advantage


  • Covering off the current view of the world marketplace, where power sits today, and what it takes for companies to create distinction
  • Marketplace
    • Society is watching more closely than ever
    • Society doesn’t always trust us to do the right thing
    • People can access information about us with lightning speed
    • Even compared to 4 years ago, people have the ability to make or break a brand in lightning speed
    • The CEO no longer refers to your Chief Executive Officer.
    • CEO - Customers, Employees and Outsiders
      • People are listening to each with other 92% checking a review before making purchases
      • People are looking for the truth on companies - voicing without fear retaliation

  • The organising power of CEOs is not going away, we need to work out how to leverage it
  • Good news is, if you’re paying enough attention, the CEOs are not asking for bigger departments, they just want to be part of the process.
  • The future belongs to companies that stand for bigger ideas than what they sell to the marketplace - inspired companies.
  • To be an inspired company, you need to stand for something that is more than just profit, deliver your experience authentically and exceed expectations always, and to deliver value to your guests.



Brendan McClements


Visit Victoria Strategy and update


  • World continues to change, but we've never been less concerned about COVID.

  • Visit Victoria is changing
    • Want to market with distinction and stand out - Shae Keenan, how do we look, feel, stand out, how do we better represent the victorian experience
    • Want to work closer with industry - need to be better at this, clear understanding that we are demand side, and supply side is now direct to government
    • Visit Victoria needs to be really well connected to supply side (so as not to operate in silos)
    • Invitation to speak to VV team to learn more about their strategic plan, and how to work with them



Shane Delia


How a multi-million dollar e-commerce business was born out of a pandemic


  • Providoor - driving revenue into premium restaurants in NSW/VIC/SA and ACT
  • Creating restaurant dining experiences at home during COVID times
  • How did he come up with the business idea?
    • Surveyed their database, to see what they wanted
    • Built relationship with people who are true partners
    • 3 week period to pivot from restaurant through to delivery of first food delivery in Melbourne
  • In times of need the hospitality industry galvanised
  • The Providoor business model is intrinsically based on strategic implementation, marketing, data, analytics - doesn’t know why he had never thought about implementing it in his restaurant 🙂
  • Was told that “In times of war is when people make their fortunes”
  • Don’t look for people to give you the solution – it’s in your hands… he had to take risks, and work around the clock to get the business up and running, and also to continue managing it.
  • Relationships, trust, resilience, transparency to be able to pivot – don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do.
  • Words of advice - nothing to lose, believe in yourself, trust in your people, be confident



Sarah Hunter

Chief Economist for BIS, Oxford Economics

Trends and Insights driving tourism in the next 6, 12 and 18 months


  • Trade-off between controlling COVID and economic recovery
  • Vaccines enabling sustained restriction rollbacks - after 30%-50% of the population had received the vaccination (US + UK are currently at this stage)
  • Fiscal stimulus is kickstarting recovery
    • Stage 1 - Stopgap emergency funds
    • Stage 2 - Traditional job-creating stimulus, creating demand (this is now
  • Households are cash-rich and sitting on pent-up demand
  • Consumption is expected to rebound strongly, and pivot back towards services (when people feel comfortable about spending, they will!)
  • Australia’s recovery is markedly further on than most - we are ahead if the pack
  • Household confidence is at multi-year highs right now
  • The end of JobKeeper won’t derail the labour market - will be a challenge for some businesses, but overall it’s ‘just a little bump in the road’ - it won’t derail everything.
  • More businesses on the whole are looking to add staff than to shed them
  • Overall income growth last year was quite robust
  • Unemployment - after stimulus-led recovery, VIC has caught up to the rest of the other Staes
  • Travel typically accounts for 6.3% of household spending - last year, spending pivoted towards goods, but now the trending is back towards services (which will show in travel & tourism) - spending in cafes and restaurants especially is rocketing back in a big way
  • Spending by Aussies at home typically outstrips international visitors (and has grown over time), thus the potential for tourism recovery this year is overwhelmingly positive


 PANEL Discussion

  • Julian Major (Head of Research & Insights Visit Victoria)
  • Matthew Burke (RM, Pacific STR)
  • Adrian Williams (Chair Accommodation Aust)
  • Michelle Levine (CEO Roy Morgan)
  • Sarah Hunter (Chief Economist for BIS, Oxford Economics)


  • 12 months of buying “things” (cars etc.) - but now focus on bigger picture
  • 40% occupancy in Melbourne accommodation, 48% in Sydney - but ‘glass is half-full’ (others are well on their way back already) - heading into winter though, so must get the viral controls right (look at what happened in Europe).
  • Small to medium business showing its resilience and sustainability - they are doing better than bigger global entities.
  • “We’ve never been less worried about COVID over the last 14 months” - main concern/barrier is border closures and not being able to return.
  • Bulk of bookings are currently being made over a 14 day period - short-lead times is now the norm over bookings 50+ days out from travel.
  • Relaxed airline policies - eg. charges to change bookings is no more.
  • There will always be people that will travel anyway with confidence (ie. if there’s something that happens, it’ll be fixed) - they are not scared of taking the risk, so we need to be ready for them.
  • Labour shortages are still a challenge - driven by people leaving the industry during COVID as they saw no future - and some are not returning to it (found a new career in another field). Some younger people went back home to live with Mum & Dad as a lifestyle choice.
  • The disease is now endemic - it’s no longer possible to eradicate it. We have to learn to live with it.
  • Federal Budget / State Budget - fiscal measures are critical (zero interest loans to enable businesses who are now seeing revenue come back invest for the future).
  • Fear. Uncertainty. Short-termism (major consumer barriers).
  • Digital has been supercharged - the move towards digital has occurred between 2-10 years faster than anticipated.
  • Business advice: “Where are the people with the dollars that are optimistic, and what can I offer them?”


Tim Riches

Group Strategy Director at Principals

What do you stand for? Why brand matters more than ever.


  • Many large tourism brands need to consider their customers and the price we’re asking them to pay
  • A lot of pressure on decision making to get it right
  • Domestic visitors know more (or think they know more) about domestic destinations than international counterparts
  • Targeting more informed domestic travellers means enabling discovery and telling of tough untold stories
  • Visitation Drivers - People travel for a reason, so ask yourself how your destination (or business) can tap into what people want from their holidays - Escapes my everyday, Surprise and delight me, Speak my imagination

  • When it comes to branding a tourism experience, it's important to define and express your brand powerfully (see slide below).


TheLon - Brand Story

  • The Lon is a luxury retreat and spa on the Bellarine Peninsula
  • Important to note that "Brand is more than a logo"
  • The Lon established their brand while the construction was in-train
  • The Market is wanting to see the sense of community - brand that has a local community focus.
  • Start by understanding what surprises and delights your customer - it's in the reviews.
  • When an experience is greater than expectation = advocacy
  • Brand starts with knowing who you are. Spending time reflecting on who you are is the start of brand and experience development
  • Operators are encouraged to take a look at why they are doing what they are doing, write it down, and go seek a third party to break it all down, to get to the real core.
  • Think about how you want the visitor to feel when they walk out of your business. Your story is really interesting to audiences.
  • People might forget what you said or how you said it, but they w'll never forget how you made them feel!




Mark Ritson

Leading Authority on Marketing and Brand

From Agility to Strategy


  • COVID extrapolated, exacerbated trends for short time
  • Travel industry was severely impacted by COVID - no doubt 😉

  • We are now in a period where marketing strategy can restart again
    • Brand Management and marketing is game of thirds: Diagnosis, Strategy, Tactics
    • This is the time to think about the strategic bit - keep tactics out of this discussion
  • What brands and products will I operate in the future?
    • COVID gave us a chance to pause and think about this. Less brands and less products leads to greater profit.
    • Consider the Mother Rat - Rats are mostly successful because the mother rat will have 3 litters per year, she’ll have 6 pups. When she gets hungry stressed, cold, she eats one of her offspring rather than dying herself (which in then turn kills all of her offspring). She does that because it’s a smart evolutionary creature. Turn the mother rat into your mother brand, and pups as your products/brand.
    • Mark's message: be the mother rat of your organisation.
  • Which customers will I target?
    • Read ‘the long and the short of it” - Les Bisnet, Peter Field - cracking book.
    • 60% marketing investment needs to focus on brand building, and 40% in performance marketing
    • Target specific segments, target existing customers for performance based marketing
    • When you build brand you go after everyone > get as much coverage with emotional high level marketing
    • Consider Uber as example
  • What will be your position?
    • Too much 'shit' gets in the way of positioning.
    • Think about a customer… all you need to be wildly successful - the customer needs to know you exist… that's 70% of the game.
    • Secondly, what are you associated with? What does the consumer think about your service? This is all we mean when it comes to positioning.
  • What are your Strategic objectives?
    • Essence of strategy is doing less not more
    • Focus on 3-4 key objectives only



Phillipa Harrison

CEO, Tourism Australia

Tourism Australia Address: The future of international tourism in Australia


  • Tourism Australia's response was to look at short term survival as well as long term prosperity.
  • Currently sitting in domestic marketing until FY 2022, but long-term is to get back to international audiences.
  • Strategic Priorities for the next 18 months

  • Engaged Boston Consulting Group, to look at what the scenarios with regard to the COVID recovery

  • Its going to take a couple of years to get back to Pre-COVID travel numbers, vaccine rollout will determine the speed at which we recover.
  • Domestic
    • 2 speed economy. Some areas having their best results ever, some are still struggling.
    • Consumer confidence is high, but impacted by uncertainty.

    • In last 2 weeks, there have been a resurgence in bookings
    • The virus is still a concern, but border restrictions are the main issue

    • Business events are re establishing
    • Domestic Response for Tourism Australia in Consumer and Business Events (see below slide)

  • Brand Australia health is great right now.

    • Rational barriers have always got in the way of visitation to Australia from international markets - Time, Distance, Cost
    • Turning headwinds into tailwinds - where these rational barriers are now the demand drivers - sparsely populated, isolated from the virus and we provide safe and quality experiences
    • Haven’t gone quiet - no big brand campaigns or conversions, but working hard on the mid-funnel
    • Distribution network and frontline agents, ATE21
    • Business Events - how TA market Australia to the associations internationally - "Australia Innovates" - showing associations our credentials as a country, which helps win big association events
    • Just launched first campaign into NZ - 90% repeat visitors, they think they know Australia, showing them something different.
  • Moving forward and emerging travel trends...


Ash Bartley + Brendan McClements 

Specialist Aboriginal Tourism + CEO, Visit Victoria

Walk with Us, Steps to Aboriginal Tourism


  • Visit Victoria have identified as priority area for the state, having a treaty in development with local indigenous council
  • Ash's role is to integrate Aboriginal culture in the work they do and bring Visit Victoria closer to the communities in VIC
  • So often indigenous tourism is only framed for internationals
  • The approach to developing Aboriginal tourism product is to "work closely with communities, rather than finding indigenous product to market.
  • Operators are encouraged to collaborate with Aboriginal organisations to test new experiences with with established products.
  • Delivering cultural capability training - both sides need to education to work together to deliver the indigenous tourism
  • Words of advice to developing indigenous experiences / where to start - Immerse yourself in indigenous experiences, then get ready for the next stage (the next stage for development will become apparent).


Shae Keenan

Chief Marketing Officer, Visit Victoria

Navigating the Future, Visit Victoria's strategy explained


  • The New Playing Field - consider our markets through a different lens, differentiated campaigns and a distinct brand
  • We will initially focus on Drive Market
  • Synergies exist between short haul from Sydney vs Singapore - think more along lines of attitude and perceptions, rather than location of visitors

  • Competition is fierce, but there is an opportunity collectively to stand out in this cluttered market

    • Major Events calendar is a huge asset/draw to VIC
    • “To cut through we need to highlight our unique feeling”

Domestic campaigns

  • “Click for VIC” - one in four Victorians bought local as a result of the campaign
  • Stay Close Go Further - Drive campaign, initial focus on high country & Gippsland (fire affected areas) - 80% of people who saw it more likely to travel as a result of the campaign, and over 40% have already purchased
  • New TVC’s on the way promoting Melbourne
  • Official visitor guide delivered to 400,000 homes

International activities

  • PR & social are a focus
  • Trade training
  • Guardian - PR activation blending humour with penguins of Phillip Island (Penguin race)

Focus moving forward

  • Stay Close, Go Further - ramping up efforts moving into winter - recapture imagination of Victorians and surrounding border towns
  • Visit Melbourne campaign - will extend to NZ, leveraging events
  • Masterchef / AFL / Channel 7 partnership
  • Have reinstated PR offices in all international markets


Paige Rowett

Paige is a tourism marketing specialist and co-director of Tourism eSchool. Paige is passionate about working with tourism destinations & operators to create sustainable marketing strategies, specialising in marketing strategy, customer advocacy, customer experience, content marketing, website strategy, search engine optimisation & blogging.
Home » Learning Hub » Destinations » Our key Takeaways from the Victorian Tourism Conference 2021