The region’s tourism businesses were given a masterclass in improving their marketing strategies at a first-time event in Warrnambool on Thursday.
The Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism (GORRT) Marketing Masterclass attracted about 130 people keen to build their brand and step up their marketing game.
Speakers included Visit Victoria chief Peter Bingeman and social media and branding experts.
GORRT chairman Wayne Kayler-Thomson said organisers were pleased with the turnout and hoped it could become an annual event.
“It’s a large geographic region and it’s hard to attract people from their business, regardless of what location, so it’s a bit of a test as well to see how this goes,” he said.
Mr Kayler-Thomson said a major aim was to help businesses increase their online presence. “Generally, you find in the tourism industry, businesses are not particularly technology savvy. We’re trying to educate them and get that standard up,” he said.
Corangamite Shire chief executive officer Andrew Mason, who attended the masterclass, said presenters emphasised the importance of getting online.
“The clear message coming out of it is the importance of digital and social media,” he said.
“It’s really important for me as a local government CEO just to get the chance to interact with the industry and hear from people about what’s going on and I found it really useful to see what some of the trends in the tourism industry are.”
Moyne Shire CEO David Madden also attended and said it was important to keep the shire’s tourism strong.
“The importance of tourism to Moyne is that it’s about having a diversified economy, which makes us economically more sustainable and stronger in the long-term,” he said.
For businesses already online, Bliss Search Agency’s Joel Thorsen provided tips and tricks on how to enhance their Google presence.
“I want to give practical tips and tools that everybody will be able to use,” he said.
Fellow presenter and branding expert Tania Farrelly, from iSpy Brand Strategy, said one of the biggest changes was the shift from thinking about brand as advertising to thinking about it as “a set of experiences”.
She said it was important tourism strategies connected a destination’s unique assets with emotional experiences.
“For example, Warrnambool’s got the most magnificent combination of beaches and bays, but also the eighth largest outdoor playground in the world. It’s accessible and joyful to everybody, so you play that out in terms of the experiences you create and also your communication, then you’ve got a strong brand,” she said.
“People buy emotions, they don’t buy things. They buy the emotion that they want.”
Port Campbell tourism operator John McInerney said the event helped stimulate ideas.
“One of the main things I get out of this is being able to talk to fellow operators in terms of tourism, possibly being able to voice some of my ideas and address some of the issues,” he said.
Twelve Apostles data ‘not up to scratch’
Better data is needed to paint an accurate picture of visitors to the Great Ocean Road and Twelve Apostles, south-west tourism leader say.
Speaking at the Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism Marketing Masterclass on Thursday, Port Campbell tourism operator John McInerney said figures currently used by government bodies were “not up to scratch”.
“What is being presented by Tourism Victoria, in some cases Tourism Australia, is wrong,” he said.
“The Shipwreck Coast Master Plan, I think it says 72 per cent of the visitors out to the Twelve Apostles are domestic, it would have to be 85 per cent-plus are international.”
Mr McInerney said Tourism Victoria statistics showed 52,000 Chinese visitors stayed in regional Victoria in 2016, which contradicted figures collected locally.
“We would have had between 40 and 60,000 Chinese staying in Port Campbell alone last year,” he said.
Mr McInerney said accurate information was needed because it was fed through to state government.
“It’s so important, not only to this area here, but in terms of international tourism,” he said. “When you look at it, probably 70 per cent of all visitors to Victoria actually go on the Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostles, that’s not technically showing up in the stats with Tourism Research Australia.”
Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism chairman Wayne Kayler-Thomson said the group was already introducing its own data collection methods. “We think we’ve got to get more granular data ourselves because the information that’s provided through Tourism Research Australia is too high level and too macro, it’s not statistically valid when you get down to the local areas either.”