Australia remains one of the most popular tourist destinations for Japanese travellers. In 2014, about 340,000 Japanese visited Australia, generating more than $1.3 billion in total expenditure, according to Tourism Australia.
Tourism Australia conducts campaigns for the Japanese market each year, ranging from restaurant promotions (most recently an Australian-inspired feast at Ruby Jack’s in Tokyo) to a visit to Melbourne by a Japanese journalist who walked around with a wearable camera broadcasting live to audiences back home. That broadcast was part of a "Make a trip to Australia" digital campaign currently underway on Tourism Australia's official Japanese Facebook page.
Overseeing Tourism Australia’s operations in Japan and South Korea is Andrew Reilly. A graduate of Sydney University and Stanford/National University of Singapore, Reilly has spent his career in Asia working initially with Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and then holding senior management and CEO positions in satellite TV, telecommunications, internet, property and tourism industries in 12 countries. He was a member of, and later led, the first Tourism Australia team and subsequently opened up eight other markets in Asia.
Japan Today editor Chris Betros visits Reilly at the Tourism Australia offices in Marunouchi to hear more.
How many Japanese tourists visit Australia each year?
Last year, it was about 340,000. When I was first here with Tourism Australia (then the Australian Tourist Commission) in the mid-1980s, we took it from 50,000 to half a million. By the mid-1990s, Australia was getting about 630,000 Japanese tourists a year and it peaked a few years later at 830,000.
What caused the boom back then?
Two key things happened. We established a Japan-focused marketing campaign, getting away from a global one-size-fits-all approach. That had a big impact. The second factor was more flights. When I arrived in Japan in 1982, there were only four Qantas and four JAL flights a week. We managed to get ANA and Ansett Airlines on the route plus persuade JAL and Qantas to expand services and that which spurred enormous growth.
What do you think is the biggest factor now hindering greater numbers of Japanese visiting Australia?
Airline seat capacity. Last December, for example, travel agents in Japan couldn’t get the seats they required. Plus, Australians are increasingly travelling to Japan, so at certain times of the year, we can lose up to 80% of seats to Australians coming to Japan. In the short term, it is a major challenge.
Qantas will launch a Haneda-Sydney service on Aug 1, which will make a difference. The Japanese government requests airlines commencing Haneda services that they maintain the capacity they have had at Narita. Qantas, in addition to its new Haneda service, had a Narita slot it has to use, so it will start flying to Brisbane, which is a gateway to both the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Overall, I think the Haneda service will be an enormous benefit to us because Narita lacks a lot of connectivity to other cities in Japan.
Is it hard to get airlines flying new routes to Australia?
We work with state tourism organizations to create demand that hopefully will influence airlines to fly to new cities. New services are risky for airlines because they go through a period at the beginning where they have extra seat capacity to sell, so we tend to focus our marketing campaign on new service gateway cities. Partner airports also provide incentives.
Is Australia a strong repeat destination?
The rate is about 42%. It could be higher. I think the issue is the way Australia has been sold. In the past, Japanese people have been given the feeling that they can do everything in one trip. If they’ve seen the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru (Ayres Rock), the Sydney Harbor Bridge, Opera House and cuddled a koala, then they’ve done everything. The marketing of Australia by the industry tends to focus on those icons. Now, with the recent “Make a trip to Australia” digital campaign, the message is go to Australia, be yourself, relax and hang out.
How does your marketing reflect this?
We’ve taken Japanese celebrities to Australia and use their experiences in our campaigns. We take TV crews to Australia, averaging two a month. We go heavily for magazines because they are on shelves and in beauty salons, so we get a much longer exposure. Digital marketing and SNS have become our principal channels for communication. Our Facebook page with 170k fans is by far the leader among national tourist organisations. We also work very closely with travel agents, conducting joint campaigns with companies such as JTB, and H.I.S. We bring about 40-45 key buyers each year to our annual travel mart in Australia.
Are Japanese tourists among the biggest spenders?
Chinese are the biggest spenders right now. If you look at how much tourists spend per day, then Japanese are still very high. If you look at spend per visit, then the British spend more because they stay longer.
Are tourism numbers affected by news of terrorist attacks?
The last six months have been a bad time in general for the whole tourism industry. There have been travel advisories about Islamic State targets, but the perceived danger overseas hasn’t really affected tourism numbers to Australia. In Japan, we are still seen as a safe and secure destination.
What is a typical day for you?
I work from home in the morning for about an hour. I get here about 9 a.m. I’m probably out one third of the time, attending travel trade meetings. I don’t go to Korea as much as I used to, but I would probably speak with the country manager there 4-5 times a day. My day ends around 9 p.m. I may attend one dinner and two functions a week. Where in Australia is top of your to-go-to list?
A bareboat charter sailing the Whitsundays is top of my bucket list.© Japan Today