The tourist dollar is a great one for restaurant owners and caterers to chase. But how do you tap into that market?
They come, they see, they eat. In a recent study by the Bureau of Tourism Research, it was established that 29.5 per cent of the income of cafes, restaurants and takeaway outlets was the result of tourism.
The report, sporting the catchy name Culinary Tourism in Australia: a profi le of culinary tourists in 2000-02, was commissioned and funded by the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources. It stated that culinary visitors tended to travel for longer and have higher levels of expenditure than total visitors.
It’s defi nitely an area of business to focus on but where do you start? And how do you target your marketing for maximum effect?
The report gives a snapshot of those domestic travellers who nominate eating out or going to a restaurant as a leisure activity. It also profi les the international travellers who nominated experiencing Australia’s food as a reason for their trip.
Both domestic and international culinary visitors are more likely to use the internet to book their trip, and are signifi cantly more likely to visit casinos, pubs, clubs, markets and wineries. So marketing activities online, or strategic marketing through markets, wineries and pubs and clubs, could get you in touch with this lucrative market.
International travellers interested in Australia’s food and wine are more likely to get out of the capital cities and into the regions, even though they love Sydney and Melbourne. They’re older than the average traveller (42 years as opposed to 40 years), and more likely to be on holidays.
Interestingly, business travellers are signifi cantly under-represented in the reports fi ndings, suggesting the message of Australia’s great food and wine isn’t necessarily getting through to them.
There are basic strategies you can use to tap in to this market. If you are located in a regional location the fi rst point of call may be your local tourism bureau.
You will need to be aware of where tourists discover your region’s attractions, and it’s usually through the local bureau. If you’re running a larger restaurant, you might like to register for conference and convention market. You might be able to cater for large groups often with greater spend per delegate/diner.
You need to keep up with your city’s tourist publications and be aware of conference events, targeting organisers, venues or the groups themselves.
For example, if a big group of Thoracic Surgeons is in town, approach the conference venue and leave brochures of your establishment, hoping to pick up some business whenever delegates have time to dine. You could approach the organiser and perhaps arrange some advertising or sponsorship in their conference brochure, or a daily information sheet. You could liaise with tour operators to feature your venue in their tour plans. This is often best achieved when you’re tapped into the market more formally, such as being a part of a tourism network.
“In terms of regional tourism, it’s vital for restaurants to refl ect their region,” says Tourism Victoria’s food and wine marketing manager Astrid Adamson. “More tourists want to eat the produce and drink the wine of the region.
“Restaurants need to work through their local tourism associations that are then plugged into the state (bureau).”
Generally, you have to be members of more than one organisation to make the most of your marketing opportunities, explains Adamson.
However, it helps your chances when you want broader tourism access. “For example, I wouldn’t often speak to a single restaurant but I would engage with a group,” says Adamson.
“Tourism Victoria has divided the state into campaign regions. If you are with your local association, they’ll be working with their particular campaign committee to promote the region.”
There is solid research in the area of winery tourism, which shows that 70 per cent of visitors rated their food experience of the region important or extremely important in their decision of which wine region to visit.
The wine regions doing well with tourists are those which have a strong respect for regional restaurants and produce, says Adamson. “The main message is: don’t go it alone. Join a group as it will give you useful information about tourism statistics, campaigns and much more.”
Among regional tourist associations there are specifi c food and wine groups working together. If your region has one, it should be your starting point. For more information, contact your council.
Promote your originality
Western Australia Visitor Centre uses the state’s Tourism Network to list operators in the tourism industry. There are two categories of members — the core membership including accommodation and tours and the non-core membership including restaurants and cafes. The network has 1300 members.
According to call centre manager Heath Redstone, restaurants should join their local tourist centres fi rst, then the network.
He says the easiest restaurants to promote are those that stand out for uniqueness of cuisine or location. “Often the international market is asking for places to eat crocodile and kangaroo. We know our members which we can promote.”
Working with other businesses in your area is also valuable. Some restaurants work out packages with tour operators to stop at their venue for lunch, or recommend it to travellers with special vouchers.
“We concentrate on public relations and are always looking for an interesting product and pitching it to journalists,” says Hunter Regional Organisation general manager Andrew Fletcher.
“We do a variety of marketing. We advertise the region as a destination and run tactical campaigns where we raise awareness of the Hunter region [in NSW]. We have a call to action via a website where we have a range of products and services that might include a couple of nights’ away and dinner at a restaurant.”
Always remember, tourist dollars are only one part of your business. During times of tourist downturns, such as after September 11, you may fi nd your business suffering. Keep your focus on your business because, if you have a good plan and your restaurant is fl ourishing, you’ll always attract more hungry customers.