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3 Jun, 2002

Australia Launches $3 Million, Multi-Language Tourism Website

BRISBANE: The Australian Tourist Commission last week launched a new multi-language tourism website designed to help potential visitors cut through the clutter of thousands of individual websites and give a major hand specially to small and medium sized businesses.

Three years and A$3 million in the making, the website, australia.com, is referred to as “the most important strategic marketing initiative happening in Australian tourism at the moment.” Although it will be a non-bookable site, there is a potential revenue stream for the national and state tourism organisations in the form of advertising and sponsorship messages.

New South Wales Tourism Minister Sandra Nori identified one of the biggest problems that the upgraded website is designed to solve. “Businesses are faced with offers to join up with new websites every day, all carrying big promises”, she said. “Sadly, these promises often fall through, leaving many a small business out of pocket, with nothing to show but a dated and inflexible website hidden away in the cyberworld where no-one can find them.”

“Today, for an investment of A$500, (Australian tourism) operators can have their product displayed on more than 17 international websites, visited by more than 520,000 potential travellers every month,” she said.

The ATC, which first set up a website in 1996, soon realised that the proliferation of tourism websites would soon become a major problem, as companies, regional tourism bodies, states and territories all were using different formats for product information, with the material also being processed separately for the ATC’s website.

A common database was felt to be needed to feed content to australia.com and other leading tourism websites, one that would hold product and destination information in a common format and be sortable by both activity and destination categories. The result would be one set of information, one collection process, one place to update and one greatly reduced charge.

Today, it’s the only way a tourism product can have its information published on australia.com, state and regional websites and potentially thousands of other web sites which will use the database as part of their website content (such as wholesalers, inbound tour operators and travel agents). Once listed, a tourism company can then use it to funnel business to its own Internet site or distributors of its choice.

“No other country has a comprehensive content system like this,” claimed Rhonda O’Donnell, President, Asia Pacific, of Novell, the company that helped design the system and the software.

Added Graham Bombell, head of the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse, the central data-gathering body, “Each State and Territory agreed to integrate their tourism databases into the ATDW. The system will aid the conversion process, by turning looking into booking and broaden the distribution of the economic benefits of tourism.”

The new site is now tailored by region and country to provide users with a relevant and informative online experience, sensitive to their cultural background, language and layout preference, travel styles, behaviour, interests and needs. For example, a visitor to australia.com in the U.S., for instance, will be presented with a different site, in terms of design and content, than a user in the UK or Singapore.

Companies can further enhance their user reach through a range of advertising opportunities. Advertising can be targeted at specific countries, and to specific pages on australia.com. There are 60 different language/country combinations to help consumers research and plan a trip to Australia.

Various target audiences across several countries and within specific demographics were defined and then researched further via a series of focus groups in San Francisco, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Singapore and Auckland. This helped the ATC consolidate its global, regional and country level branding and create an online brand presence.

Said Ms O’Donnell, “The focus groups provided Novell with a good understanding of how different cultures use an internet site to gain tourist information about Australia. The research revealed subtle differences in the information needs of each culture.

“For instance, Singaporeans preferred more pictures and less text, whereas Germans found maps, text and lots of detail more useful. Americans liked brief, easy-to-read, conversational text with colourful Australian images and maps; and the Japanese responded well to photos of Japanese tourists enjoying the Australian sights.

“This project represents a milestone for the industry,” says ATC Managing Director, Ken Boundy. “It is a simple and vital one-step process to profile products through Australia’s industry websites. It delivers greater reach and involves a lot less hassle.”

Today, australia.com features more than 10,000 product listings which are fed direct from the ATDW, leading to a significant cut in the duplication of effort in data collection and management.

States and territories are encouraging all their tourism operators to join up, noting that it is the only way they can enjoy the benefits of millions of dollars advertising spent by the ATC, as all its ads carry the australia.com web address as the call to action.

The B2B potential is considerable. Inbound Tour Operators, Wholesalers and Retail Agents Distributors get access to a wide range of product and destination information from a single source in a common format. They can publish data through individual web sites without external links and control what rates are displayed; the system is designed so distributors can download content and relate it to negotiated rates and inventory in existing databases.

In 2000/2001, the ATC estimates that it’s former website recorded over 4.6 million users and delivered 32 million pages of information to customers worldwide. According to the Australian National Office of the Information Economy, there are about 235 million websites on the Internet, and the number grows at an astonishing rate every day. The online consumer market is projected to grow to 840 million Internet users by 2005.

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