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Marketing Down Under

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I enjoy traveling and have had the chance to visit several far afield locales these past 12 months. Ten days in Australia and New Zealand was my most recent and furthest trek, and I wanted to share some firsthand business development and marketing trends from an international perspective.

Sydney, Australia, was my first stop just ahead of the famous New Year’s Eve (2 million-plus) people party held in front of the deservedly famous opera house. The surrounding central area of the country was burning with bush fires but the city decided to hold its fireworks anyway.

Sydney is a vibrantly happy and fast-growing, internationally relevant city. The cost of living is high, with home prices from $600,000. The city’s beautiful water views and waterfront properties command premium pricing ranging from $2-5 million.

Given the warm annual climate, outdoor activities abound. An estimated 250 cranes are actively adding additional high rise projects to the seemingly nonstop construction. Locals report that much of the growth is financed with Chinese investment dollars, with the result that Australian government is now trying to limit that source of funding.

Billboards – many with movie ads — abound and even clutter the city roads. It would have been impossible to be unaware of the arrival of latest Star Wars extravaganza. I also found that my cellphone somehow magically added local ads to my social media networks.

Social media marketers effectively find visitors to the city and promote places to visit and products to sample. For example, area Ugg shoe stores were displayed on my phone. The usual tourist spots had gift shops a la Disney.

I was not surprised at the size, scope and modernity of Sydney but was stunned by the same reality in nearby Melbourne. Towering over the majestic Yarra River, every high-rise project  appeared to be competing for architectural design awards. Locals again indicated much of the funding was from China.

There is a keen competitiveness between the two cities, but at this point, Melbourne is a tad more affordable. And hotter — it reached 111 degrees while we were there, with a strong breeze. The bush fires were closer to Melbourne and the sky was hazy. We limited our time in the sun and relaxed in the well chilled local museum.

As in Sydney, Melbourne is focused on relating the history and messages of its indigenous people in art exhibitions, signage and gift shop items. Tennis, sailing, cricket and rugby venues are the thrust of local advertising.

New Zealand’s strategy

Shifting on to summer in New Zealand, I found the air cooler and each city visited had its own marketing messaging for its important tourist trade. Yet this past August, a first-time coordinated national marketing campaign was launched to help emphasize the variety of tourists’ activities by region.

Tourism is the top export earner for the country at over $16 billion dollars annually. With an anticipated global slowdown, New Zealand wants to stay on top of this important revenue and has managed to successfully engage cooperating activity by regions to attract visitors.

Wine country visits remain popular with the locals and tourists. We chose just two of the 76 wineries to tour near the town of Napier.  Sheepherding, botanical gardens, thermal areas, sailing, and tours of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” sites are only a few of the outdoor activities that draw huge audiences.

The national airline just helped fund a creative campaign with popular evening host and comedian Stephen Colbert to visit the island and to showcase its great and diverse features for visitors. The series was funny yet informative (you can find the five episodes on YouTube.)

New Zealand Air and the regional tourism boards’ successful collaborative effort on this initial tourism/economic development approach may afford valuable insights for regional Maryland/D.C. marketing activities.

Glenda LeGendre is principal of Marketing & Strategic Communications and can be reached at glegendre@comcast.net.