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Desperately seeking a tourist trap

Jun 29, 2008

Bloody hell. Australian tourism is in the doldrums with the number of first-time visitors going backwards over the past seven years.

And Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has pilloried the previous government's "so where the bloody hell are you" tourism campaign, calling it a "rolled-gold disaster".

Tourism Australia is expected to announce the name of the advertising agency this week that will be charged with creating a new "brand". But will that be the answer? In the national interest then, The Sun-Herald asked three of the nation's top creative agencies to devise a pitch for reselling Australia to the world.

Jonathan Kneebone of The Glue Society, a collective of writers and directors, would create a global, main-street retail chain called "THIS WAY UP" to export the best of Down Under to major cities in Europe, the US and Asia. "Imagine walking down the street and you see a shop that's as symbolic of Australia as IKEA is of Sweden or McDonald's is of America," Mr Kneebone said.

But THIS WAY UP stores would not stock Victoria Bitter or Vegemite. "The idea is for Australia to put its best retail foot forward, so people can go in there to buy a really nice bottle of chardonnay or a specially designed bikini range by Zimmerman or lingerie by Elle Macpherson. You would inspire people to say 'I've bought the T-shirt, now I'm going to visit the country'."

At a meeting of the Federal Government's new national tourism strategy committee in Melbourne this week, a global tie-in between Tourism Australia and 20th Century Fox to promote Baz Luhrmann's new film Australia will be discussed with the hope that it will mirror the record tourism draw New Zealand gained from The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

Communications agency Naked also plumped for using films to sell Australia. Partner Adam Ferrier suggested using four acclaimed overseas film directors to shoot positive documentaries on Australia for screening in their respective countries.

"It would be Americans listening to Americans or the Japanese listening to Japanese, rather than us trying to yell about ourselves," he said.

But John Mescall, executive creative director of Melbourne ad agency SMART, said Australia should be sold on computer, not silver, screens:

", a comprehensive and interactive website, would make people feel they have experienced parts of the country before even stepping off the plane," he said. Special webcams on planes, trains and trams could beam Australia to the world.

Desperately seeking a tourist trap

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