“An excellent example of a well focussed digital migration initiative,” – Martin Ferguson.

Australia has fallen behind in the online marketing of our tourism products. While traditional distribution channels will remain important, we need to rapidly embrace digital platforms that enable Australian and international visitors to research and book their holidays online. We need to understand the policy implications of the growth of digital distribution, in particular in the areas of customer satisfaction and consumer protection.

The Government’s decision to rollout a national high-speed, broadband network, will increase the potential for industry to reach their customers. However, the industry will need some support in making this transformation. The dominance of SMEs in the tourism industry demands cost effective ways in which to engage in the digital economy.

The STOs and Tourism Australia collectively own the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse (ATDW), a digital infrastructure that already contains over 25,000 product listings, and makes them available to any digital distribution channel. Such a platform would form the ideal base for an acceleration effort, because it is proven technology, has the support of critical stakeholders, and has established links with open booking technology in the form of the Tourism Exchange Australia (TXA).

The Tas-e Connect program, developed by Tourism Tasmania with ATDW and TXA, also provides an excellent example of a well-focused digital migration initiative that addresses both technology and adoption challenges. In one example, a lodge in Devonport, Tasmania, reported a rise in occupancy rates from 45 per cent to 90 per cent, after starting to distribute their product online.

There is an urgent need for Tourism Australia to work with the states and territories to examine the scope for a national rollout of a program such as Tas-e Connect. Tourism Australia should further consider utilising Australia.com to link to state and territory digital platforms.

The digital distribution of Australian tourism product also requires that major international online Suppliers have free access to Australian offerings. Suppliers such as Expedia, TripAdvisor and Wikitravel provide millions of potential international and local visitors. They employ user-friendly resources to market tourism options and book their travel, accommodation and attractions.

These Suppliers are charged fees for access to Australian product, which is a disincentive for them and a disadvantage for Australian tourism. It would strongly be in the interests of Australian tourism for these large Suppliers to have open access to Australian product information and bookings.

A key element in the successful migration online of Australian tourism, will be an accreditation system that gives consumers confidence and trust in tourism product offerings. The Australian Government is now working with states, territories and industry, to bring the myriad of existing accreditation programs under one umbrella, and to guide the development of agreed standards. The Steering Committee strongly endorses the development of the National Tourism Accreditation Framework.