Australia needs to leave its tourism comfort zone

Australia’s tourism marketing needs to diversify for it to remain sustainable, and tapping into popular culture could be the answer.

James Cook University researcher Dr Valeriya Radomskaya has investigated ways in which Australia could improve its tourism offerings and found “popular culture tourism” is being overlooked.

“Studies have found that more than 30 per cent of travellers are influenced by popular culture,” she said. “But it’s not something that Australia actively promotes.”

Popular Culture Tourism is an umbrella term comprising several fields including screen tourism, literary tourism, music tourism, arts tourism, special events tourism, and food tourism.

Dr Radomskaya says it’s time to change Australia’s focus on wildlife and the Great Barrier Reef.

“We can’t rely on natural resources alone, especially as we don’t know how climate change will affect them,” she said.

“It will also help appeal to the increasingly diverse tourism market.”

Dr Radomskaya stressed that it’s not about abandoning the current focus, it’s about diversifying.

“It’s risky for countries and cities to rely on a single strategy for their tourism marketing,” she said. “Tourism is an oversaturated market and with increasing competition, Australian destinations need to remain relevant.”

To see what this looks like in practice, Dr Radomskaya points to Melbourne.

“Melbourne has done this really well,” she said. “The city has embraced its urban culture and actively promotes itself as a contemporary destination for things such as street art, street food, and niche cultural events.

“Other places try but it’s usually focused on locals, not at tourists. Australian cities and towns have great things going on but people just don’t know about them”

The problem, according to Dr Radomskaya, is that tourism authorities are unwilling to move from their existing methods.

“Australia is very conservative and doesn’t like to embrace different ideas,” she said. “As a result, Australia isn’t utilising its popular culture to its full potential.”

And Dr Radomskaya says advertising with star-studded line-ups doesn’t count.

“People point to Chris Hemsworth and think that’s popular culture marketing but it’s not,” she said. “It’s just using a celebrity to market the same message as previous campaigns.

“What’s the point in doing the same thing every year?”

/Public Release. View in full here.