Global tourism is on the up and up this year


Photo: Pixabay

Next month, Melbourne in the Australian state of Victoria will play host to the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE24). It is said to be the biggest tourism event to be held in the country since the pandemic ended.

For those of us in the industry, the ATE24 – held from May 19 to 23 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre – is also one of the largest business-to-business or B2B events in the world. It is hoped that the event will bring lots of benefits to Australia’s inbound tourism market, as well as act as a platform for the country to show off its tourism products to the world.

This will be the 44th edition of the ATE, organised by both Tourism Australia and Visit Victoria.

Many governments have been trying to hold similar events in their own countries but so far, none have been successful. The ATE24 is expected to bring more than 1,500 tour operators from across Australia – along with 700 outbound operators from over 30 countries that organise tours to Australia – under one roof throughout the five-day event, including 18 from Malaysia.

These Aussie players will get to meet their global counterparts face-to-face, and introduce new innovative tourism and ecotourism products, including fun destinations, good food experiences and great souvenirs from Down Under, to potential buyers.

As for me, I have been sending two to four Apple Vacations colleagues from different departments to the event each year, including those from the product development and marketing promotion departments. This allows them to meet up with fellow travel operators and gain first-hand information on Australia’s latest tourism trends and resources.

Having been in the tourism sector for a little over three decades, I realise that Tourism Australia (TA) has always played the unofficial role of “ambassador of friendship” in the industry.

Every year, the agency would set aside a massive budget to bring foreign travel operators as well as media practitioners to Australia, so that they can meet up with tourist product suppliers from the country’s six states and two territories. This not only forges meaningful business ties but also allows foreigners to have a taste of the great Australian hospitality.

The columnist (right) with executive general manager of Tourism Australia Andrew Hogg exchanging ideas during the recent Matta Fair in KL. — Photos: LeesanThe columnist (right) with executive general manager of Tourism Australia Andrew Hogg exchanging ideas during the recent Matta Fair in KL. — Photos: LeesanTourism Australia will also make painstaking arrangements for foreign travel operators to visit specific states before or after the ATE, so that they can personally “Come And Say G’day” (TA’s ongoing global campaign).

I seriously feel that TA has spent its money very wisely and productively.

I myself took two travel groups to Australia in 2022 for more profound and intimate travel experiences in different parts of the country, from which I have come to notice that Australian travel operators are indeed hugely passionate about the marvellous natural environment the country offers. The red and white wines from the vast expanses of vineyards dotting the Australian countryside are aptly complemented by delicious local cuisines, and boosted by cups of stimulating after-dinner coffees.

I admit that I have a special affinity for the Australian flat white ... and have you had an Australian brunch yet? When we were there, we searched high and low for some of the best brunches around, creatively prepared by chefs using fresh local ingredients.

I always tell people that the Australian way of living – somewhat hassle-free and easy-going – is something that travellers should really experience, and enjoy. Through the annual ATE, overseas travel operators will get to experience for themselves this famous Australian way of travelling.

The country has more than enough nature, culture and breathtaking sights that can be enjoyed the “Australian” way, too. However, to truly understand this way of life, travel operators must first discover, feel and appreciate Australia’s unique cultural charms before they can pass it on to travellers from their respective countries.

This has been ATE’s unchanging objective in nearly five decades: sharing the many marvels the country has to offer with everyone else.

Currently, I am planning a 30-day themed Australian tour for autumn 2025 (which is in May), where we will be stepping on the “belly button of the Earth” gazing at the galaxies above, witnessing the thrills of Vivid Sydney and taking on the BridgeClimb challenge, and lastly, savouring the good food and fabulous wines of South Australia.

Australia aside, many other countries around the world are fighting hard today to seize a slice of the tourist economy cake. Even Saudi Arabia, previously shut away from the world, started opening up its borders and welcoming foreign visitors in late 2019.

This was soon followed by the disbursement of generous budgets to woo global travellers via large-scale marketing campaigns.

As if that’s not enough, the desert kingdom is also investing heavily to enhance its tourism infrastructure, constructing brand new airports and hotels, as well as a “futuristic city” called The Line, doing all it can to attract tourists.

Besides Mecca, almost every major Saudi destination is teeming with tourists who are free to roam everywhere. The kingdom has made a significant breakthrough in opening up its tourism sector, and is set to win big as an emerging international destination this year.

Countries across the planet are also lifting their visa restrictions, upping international flight frequencies, and hosting travel fairs and exhibitions. Everyone is vying for the lucrative tourist money to jumpstart the recovery of their tourist sector, raking in foreign exchange earnings and creating job opportunities at the same time.

Jeslynn Wong, who took part in the ATE22, will be going to the ATE24 in Melbourne next month.Jeslynn Wong, who took part in the ATE22, will be going to the ATE24 in Melbourne next month.

In fact, the tourism industry has never received so much attention before. Governments are brushing aside all forms of restrictions, initiating unprecedented collaborations and doing all they can to throw their doors wide open to international travellers, which is something quite unseen before.

It appears that the market is overflowing with a vast range of exhilarating tourist products that are bound to put a big smile on every traveller’s face. Soon, tourist promotion authorities worldwide will find themselves intensely pitted against one another to attract tourists.

Even China is fully liberalising its visa requirements for foreign visitors, and this is poised to see many more tourists from the West as well as the rest of Asia flocking to its shores.

Australia’s TA keeps introducing exciting new seasonal tourism activities such as the annual Vivid Sydney event. There is also Yokoso Japan, Korea’s K-pop craze, Macao’s magical spell, Hong Kong’s irresistible dynamism, Dubai’s “Time To Say Dubai” and many more.

Every country is putting in immense sums of money to promote themselves to the world, trying to get travellers to come over and to shop, eat and party till you drop.

The good news is, people are actually travelling, and in every season, too.

Anyway, the tremendous effort to boost tourism is a positive development as it helps promote mutual visits of people from different countries while fortifying cultural and social exchanges. This is the harmonious integration we yearn to see from people living in our Global Village.

The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Leesan, the globe-trotting traveller who has visited 137 countries and seven continents, enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored five books.

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