Developing Global Digital Marketing in China First

Travel Weekly Interview Transcription

Reporter: Fangzi Ouyang

Tourism Australia (“TA”) is being mentioned more and more for its ongoing digital work in China. From the official website with rich content, to social media promotion for training program in online traveling industry, combined with the VR experience about 乐水“澳“游 (Acquatic and Coastal Campaign) project, all of these are the significant outcomes from the TA’s latest digital marketing transformation. As the head of digital marketing in TA, and also the former CFO in TA, John Mackenney, has good insight into the significance of digital marketing and technology to improve consumer experience and successful acquisition of business opportunities. In Australia, China formally implemented ten years visa (December 12, 2016) this week, Mr. Mackenney John (hereinafter referred to as "John") visited China, and describes the TA’s activities in market digital strategy and ambition to "Travel Weekly China".

From the first Chinese official website to the virtual reality (VR) experience:

As many overseas destinations build official websites for the global market, in the past, due to technical, language and other aspects, the TA website was not that convenient for Chinese consumers, and loading speed is usually too slow because the site contains a large number of rich media content including photos and videos in which were not properly supported for browsing within China. At the same time, China was becoming one of Australia's most important tourism markets. Aware of this challenge, John said, about four years ago, the TA began cooperating with the digital marketing agency ASAP+, to design and build a website in the territory of Chinese server exclusively based on Chinese consumers .This was the first step to the Chinese digital market of TA officially. Since then, TA continued to carry out digital market communication within WeChat, Weibo and other social media platforms. "We have discussed the possible changes and developments of the future market further in-depth with ASAP+. This is also for having a deeper understanding in Chinese consumers' preferences and demands, and identify the potential customers more accurately, which are the ones whom are really interested in Australia and prefer a long journey, within a limited market budget." John said. Today, the Australian Tourism Board has developed from a single site to integrated marketing channels in all media, and launched a virtual reality (VR) experience combined with 乐水“澳”游 (Acquatic and Coastal Campaign) project this year. In this regard, John pointed out: “according to our survey, visual, immersive experience is very welcomed. And Australia is a sensatory open destination, all the wonderful place can be truly understood only by one’s own eyes and experiences. Therefore, in the future we will continue to advance in virtual reality (VR), AR and other similar aspects, to bring consumers the 'immersive' experience." In addition, he also said that for TA, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) will also be the major areas that they would like to put more effort in global market in the future, including China. “In the past, we gave consumers standardized products and information, but various factors affect different people when choosing travel destinations. In the future, through data and technical means, we will be able to give people more accurate and personalized information about destination and related product."

China has become a pilot market for tourism digital technology:

Due to the differences of modern historical and cultural background as well as theories, people seem to be accustomed to the transmission from West to East of most new technologies or concepts. However, in John's view, this concept is out of date. After years of development, TA’s activities in the Chinese market via digital marketing tools have been walking ahead of many other countries’markets. “This approach is different from many international companies and organizations, we will not take the experience in Western markets to Chinese market; on the contrary, we tend to do the first trial on new digital marketing and experience in China, then get the experience and feedback which will be used in other countries and regions in the market." He also acknowledged that there may exist many differences in each market according to their specific marketing channels and platforms, for example: "face book" (Facebook), twitter (Twitter), Instagram and etc. are the main platforms of TA to carry out social media marketing in the global markets, but in China WeChat and Weibo take the lead; the TA will also seek OTA (online travel agent) cooperation with Ctrip and Alitrip, which differs from strategies in the United States, Singapore or other markets. In regards to marketing content in the Chinese market, TA’s main task is to improve consumer awareness of Australia as a travel destination. Visitors from the United Kingdom, the United States, and even Singapore's guests tend to have a basic understanding of Australia, so the task of the TA will also be more focused on brand and specific travel product promotion relating to Chinese consumer awareness. This means that for different markets, Australia Tourism Bureau in the tourism and consumer-side marketing efforts will be different. For the United States, India and China, the three most important markets, tourism and consumer side are the focus of our efforts. In fact, according to John, "Australian tourism expert training website" was first implemented in the Chinese market, as sign of the Chinese market’s importance to TA."In the final analysis, what we have to do is to encourage people to visit Australia and feel the natural, cultural and way of life here. The core appeal is consistent for any country and market." He also pointed out that "China's innovation speed is at the forefront of the world, so we believe that it is more likely to take the lead in other markets if we adopt the new technology and experience from this market."

Being prepared: leveraging local partners to continue to create innovative experiences

TA is the first tourism bureau to carry out digital marketing overseas specifically for the Chinese market, giving TA the upper hand when it comes to communication. So far, in view of technology, innovation continues to actively drive TA’s leading position. Nevertheless, John still shows a strong sense of urgency. "At this stage, one of our challenges comes from the increasingly fierce competition - how to stand out from so many overseas travel destinations." He pointed out that for most overseas destinations to promote themselves, they must rely on their team resident in the Chinese market , otherwise it can be difficult to achieve success. Having a strong partner network is another key factor. With local experiences, the real understanding of the local market partners will be able to effectively build a tourist office, industry and the bridge between consumers. "The Chinese market is so huge, Chinese consumers are constantly changing and becoming more mature travelers, so we need to continuously improve the understanding of the market."When asked about the critical benefits of digital marketing and technology, John said that any product was created on the one hand to meet the real needs of the market, and on the other hand, to make it easier for people to meet their own needs. For example, VR allows an agency to tell stories about destinations in unprecedented ways; route planning, sharing platforms and technologies make it easier for consumers to book their own itineraries. John's idea is very clear: "Digital technology has been able to help us to figure out our potential customers, then our core task is how to make it easier for people to plan and book the journey in Australia, after all, only to make this matter itself become simple and convenient, people will be more willing to go, turning the browsing action into a travel decision – by removing obstacles.”Turning to the future of digital marketing tools and related technology trends, John believes that VR at this stage has become the focus of much attention, and machine learning for the entire trip planning process will be a major development in the future direction. In the highly developed information today, people's attention is more and more limited so offerings need to be optimized. Platforms such as Expedia, online travel search platform like the rise of passengers more and more accustomed to large data-based intelligent push. In John's view, in the near future, people will abandon providers who can not give high-relevance information platforms and products. He believes that in the field of digital development and mobile terminals, China has been a world leader. To social media, for example, many Western countries have come to WeChat learn what’s the latest tech. In most Western countries, the market's popular social media tools may be able to meet the needs of interpersonal communication, but still in the field of electronic commerce is lacking. John told reporters earnestly, "Chinese visitors to Australia may find it inconvenient to use the digital applications and tools that they have become accustomed to in their country. Australia is likely to miss out business opportunities on that, so it will be a major challenge. This is the reason why the Australian Tourism Board in the digital technology level focused on the Chinese market.”