By Martin Kelly, Editor, Travel Trends

Living in Sydney, NSW, is like supporting Collingwood. Everyone likes to see you lose, and that’s exactly what’s happening now. The state is in a state. It’s getting picked on, laughed at, and locals are beginning to question their commitment.

In fact, many of them would rather stay indoors with their new plasma TV rather than get outside and see a bit of bit of their great state. The government is no help – it’s even more hopeless at tourism marketing than everything else.

For years, Tourism NSW has had no real budget, leadership, direction or market presence. Kind of like your old Aunty Maude, there but not really there.

NSW took more than a year to produce an events strategy – overseen by rugby boss John O’Neill – that could have been written in an afternoon brainstorm. Maybe it was.

It featured cutting edge ideas like getting Tiger Woods to play in the Australian Open, boosting the Autumn Racing Carnival and hosting the FIFA World Cup. At least they’ve got a three-year budget of A$85m.

So what’s brought on this rant? Well, apart from my love of Sydney and NSW, the answer is some research revealed by Andrew Maurer, who is speaking at No Vacancy, at a recent Property Council breakfast in Sydney.

Maurer is Forecasting and Analysis Manager at Tourism Research Australia, and his research shows NSW is letting the Australian tourism team down while the Cane Toads are the star performers.

(Nothing hurts a New South Welshman than getting beaten by Queensland).

“There’s quite a contrast, NSW is faring nowhere near as well,” Maurer said, adding that over the past decade NSW bed nights were down 3% compared with a national rise of 10%. Overnight expenditure and day trip numbers also fell.

But others shouldn’t gloat. Sydney is a trend setter. And this is one trend that could easily spread as other Australian cities get bigger and the recreational focus continues its shift to indoor electronic-based activities.

Maurer said focus groups revealed “people are increasingly spending money on things that make them feel better now – instant gratification.

“For most people this means tangible products, that new plasma TV for example. And financing makes the purchase easy. As a result domestic tourism is left out – the lack of tangibility is a competitive disadvantage.”

People also want a value for money “experience” – local culture as part of the package – and the rise of low cost carriers means overseas trips are well-packaged, convenient and affordable.

“Perceived poor value for money is making Australians resent the idea of domestic travel. In contrast to overseas, people felt there was very little (accommodation) product that combined moderate cost with character … and integrated with local life.”

As for the outbound market, Maurer says over the next eight years Japan will stay negative while the strongest growth will come out of China and India.

The United States also has potential with increased flights but the high Aussie dollar and US recession are potential impediments.

“This good news because the Yanks are the biggest spenders on accommodation – about twice as much as Indians while Chinese spend less again.”

Tourism Trends: March 17, 2008

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