Australian travel vendors bring stories to Exchange

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ADELAIDE, Australia -- In Baird Bay, not far from here in southern Australia, travelers and sea lions can swim together, and the playful pups will even swim into the arms of their human playmates to get their chins scratched.

On the Coral Coast in western Australia, several operators take clients into Coral Bay to swim with whale sharks (these creatures are toothless vegetarians). Farther south on the coast, dolphins visit the Shark Bay beach, but customers cant swim with them here because they come so close theyre swimming between your legs while youre standing in shallow water, said Sue Papadoulis, manager of destination public relations, Tourism Western Australia in Perth.

The exhibitors at the annual Australian Tourism Exchange here last week have long pitched their role as experience-makers. This year, nearly 1,700 Australian travel vendors brought their stories to about 600 buyers worldwide.

Aside from wildlife interests of the sort described, products ranged from camel trekking or cattle drives to food and wine tasting, aboriginal lifestyle excursions and river and shoreline cruising.

Andrew McEvoy, Tourism Australias director of industry and organization development, said there was more aboriginal product than ever, including more than a dozen aboriginal-owned businesses. Nerreda Hillier, project manager for Australias North West Tourism in Broome, said aboriginal tourism has taken off in the last decade or so, largely driven by overseas interest from places such as the U.K. and the U.S.

Then there were the unusual accommodations, such as the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna (population: 7) in the Flinders Ranges, known for its way with Flinders feral food (emu, camel, kangaroo and wallaby), and the underground Desert Cave Hotel in Coober Pedy, which is in opal country and includes as a sightseeing option a 12-hour Outback mail run.

Options like these appeal to the same audience that Travel Australias new ad targets and dovetail with its goal of luring visitors outside the main cities -- of dispersing them, in the words of Scott Morrison, Tourism Australia managing director.

In its ads featuring actor Paul Hogan as well as in other past campaigns, Tourism Australia sought to raise positive awareness of the destination.

With the bloody hell ads, Tourism Australia wants to attract so-called experience seekers because they will travel farther, go off the beaten path, spend more money and, as opinion leaders, influence others to follow, Morrison said. He said there are 29.1 million experience seekers in five top Aussie markets: China, Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.

Hence, the ads, while loaded with references to the icons -- Sydneys Harbour Bridge, Uluru, kangaroos -- also show what Aussies do, such as shoo the kangaroos off their golf courses.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin at [email protected].

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