With the internet knowing no boundaries, there’s plenty of ways to market your business and target tourists well before they arrive. By Rob Johnson
The small town of Rockingham on the coast of Western Australia is not really what you’d call a tourist mecca. It has all the attractions of many coastal towns such as dolphin tours, fishing and watersports, but the real tourist action is north in Fremantle or south near the Margaret River. Nonetheless, when Lyn and Mike Junghans opened their restaurant Sunsets on the beach in Rockingham ten years ago, the first thing they did was join the local tourist bureau.
“We became members of the local tourist bureau before we’d even opened the doors of the restaurant,” Lyn says. “We were the first restaurant on the beachfront in 1995 when we opened, so we knew everyone there personally. The little community on the beachfront here is quite small—but it was smaller ten years ago. The tourist bureau was often the first port of call for people coming into town. So having a few brochures there made sense. For a short while I was part of its committee.”
Lyn didn’t have a grand plan for drawing tourists into their restaurant—she figured local trade would bring a few in, given the area’s large expatriate British population. “Our location is very much somewhere you pass through rather than somewhere that people come to specifically,” she says. “There’s not many people who stay in the area. But plenty of international visitors stop off on the way to the wine region in the south.”
Nonetheless, her marketing efforts through the local bureau started to snowball. They were approached by Tourism Western Australia to be listed on their website (www.westernaustralia.com), which seemed like a bargain. “It was something like $150 to be listed on the website,” she says. “It’s such a small amount, and our main reason for being there was for people to see our website.”
The state tourist bureau sends them a monthly report about the traffic on the site, “And that’s increasing quite significantly,” says Lyn. “We’re quiet here in the winter, but our season will start in November. We’ll immediately see a big influx of eastern states visitors. They say people travel domestically when there’s trouble overseas, so over the last two years we’ve seen a big increase in numbers of people from the east.”
The Junghans have also found a wellspring of tourist dollars from the local naval base. HMAS Stirling, the country’s largest fleet base, is located on the shores of Careening Bay, on the south-eastern section of Garden Island, facing Cockburn Sound. “We were approached by one of the navy officers who deals with accommodation for visitors to the naval base. She asked if we could put a pack together for the mess. So I sent a pack over.”
If you talk to the various chief executives of state tourism bodies around the country, the Junghans are doing everything right to grab the attention of tourists before they arrive. While ‘destination’ restaurants like Tetsuya’s and Icebergs will be on the itinerary of foodie visitors from interstate or overseas, it’s harder for regional or suburban restaurants—or those located outside established tourist precincts—to achieve the same attention.
But it’s not impossible by any means, says Greg Hywood, chief executive of Tourism Victoria. “There’s no part of Victoria that is not a tourism area,” he says. “And each region targets different travellers. If you’re aware of how the region you’re in is marketed, it allows you to determine what food and service you should offer.”
Effectively, tourism is everyone’s business, Hywood says, and if a restaurant owner doesn’t understand the benefits of attracting tourist dollars, they’re doing themselves a disservice. “Thirty per cent of all retail sales in Melbourne are tourism related,” he explains. “So you have to be aware of the potential.”
The other thing you have to do, he says, is make a judgement as to how much tourist trade you want. For example, he says, “Oscar W’s in Echuca have made a decision to broaden their appeal beyond the tourist market, and so are less dependent on tourist traffic. Businesses have to judge what they want to do based on where they are and then work out with the local tourism board how to become part of the local tourism product, to be marketed as such, and attach themselves to the Tourism Vic website.”
Tourism Victoria offers restaurants a couple of options for web-based promotion—for $180 you can get listed on the Visit Victoria website (www.visitvictoria.com) where you have control over the information listed. “We also do syndicated reviews of restaurants,” says Hywood, “so you can either participate in that and have an independent judgement, or you can have complete control.”
Tourism NSW offers a similar service, says executive director and general manager, John O’Neill. “By joining Get Connected, Tourism NSW’s free website membership program, restaurants can be listed on www.visitnsw.com.au and www.seesydney.com.au, our primary consumer websites,” he says. “They’ll also get listed on the State Tourism Data Warehouse (STDW)—a database utilised by Tourism NSW staff and more than 80 Visitor Information Centres to research tourism product and to market destinations; australia.com—Tourism Australia’s international consumer website, which attracts more than 4.6 million visitors per year; and the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse (ATDW)—a centralised database of Australian tourism product and destinations which supplies NSW product to a variety of websites.”
Membership of the program is open to all business operators with an interest in tourism in NSW. Restaurants can find out more and join up to the program at the Tourism NSW corporate website: www.tourism.nsw.gov.au/corporate (there is a quick link to the Get Connected program on the homepage).
The importance of a web presence through these sites can’t be underestimated, says O’Neill, as one in three international visitors to Australia researched their trip on the internet, one in two booked their accommodation online and two in five booked their airfare over the web.
Tourism NSW also promotes restaurants locally and internationally through regional brand campaigns, and hosting international and domestic travel agents and media on an ongoing basis. “We design itineraries to showcase NSW destinations including restaurants and cafes,” says O’Neill. “Our marketing materials also feature restaurants. For example, The Little Book of Sydney Style produced by Tourism NSW includes comprehensive information and photographs about restaurants, bars, food stores and produce markets. These booklets are distributed at special events in key international markets.”
Finally, a couple of options open to members of state Restaurant & Catering Associations are a free listing on the Savour Australia Restaurant Guide (at www.restaurant.org.au) and in the upcoming Food and Wine Atlas. According to John Hart, CEO of Restaurant & Catering Australia, around 40 per cent of the monthly 450,000 hits on the Restaurant Guide site are from overseas, indicating potential tourists are already using it as a source of information on restaurants when they come to visit.
The Food and Wine Atlas, says Hart, will be “the food and wine bible of Australia by promoting high quality food and wine experiences wherever they are to be had around the country.
“It will be a unique and definitive resource promoting Australian tourism regions, in a food and wine sense, in one publication. It will also differentiate winery tourism from food and wine tourism—for example, food and wine experiences are available in capital cities. The plan is to increase yield and saturation, and facilitate pre-trip decision-making among (domestic) overnight tourists, with a key focus on culinary tourism.
“The Food and Wine Atlas will offer the only national, objective restaurant ratings system in the country. Two thousand copies will also be distributed overseas.”
The Atlas has been developed with Tourism Australia, The Wine Makers Federation of Australia and state tourism organisations, and will be published and marketed by Fairfax Enterprises.
National distribution will be through bookstores and newsagents, as well as direct to readers of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and through NRMA and RACV offices, hotels, hire car companies and petrol stations. In addition, the Atlas will also be marketed to R&CA’s 6,500 members.
An advertising campaign to Fairfax readers is planned for three months after launch, and will be complemented by online promotion and an extensive public relations campaign.
And according to Lyn Junghans of Sunsets, capturing the tourist market can make a real difference to business.
“Tourists are really the icing on the cake,” she says. “During the week, I’d say about 25 per cent of our custom is tourism and 75 per cent of our business is return customers. Although naturally it’s seasonal, and on weekends it could go 50/50 or even 75/25.”