The media including the travel industry media tends to have an almost obsessive focus on negative stories from the Eastern Med including the conflict between Israel and the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip and the internal problem in Lebanon. While these problems are very real there remains a lot of positive news. Tourism to the Eastern Mediterranean is experiencing a boom with tourism to Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Greece, Egypt, Croatia, Libya, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Italy all enjoying healthy growth.
In Australia, a unique tourism association celebrates and promotes tourism to all the Eastern Med and has done so since 2001. The Eastern Mediterranean Tourism Association (EMTA) has now been operating in Australia since 2001. From the very beginning EMTA banned politics from its constitution, meaning that every country in the region which covers all destinations between Italy and Jordan is equally promoted irrespective of the state of political relations between them. In EMTA’s web site, www.emta.org.au, and it its industry events Israel , Syria, The Palestinian Authority and Israel, Serbia and Croatia all appear on the same bill despite the obvious political tensions between them. Australian travelers want to travel to all these destinations and don’t want political enmities to get in their way.
During February and March 2008, EMTA ran a series of seven travel industry workshops in major Australian cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and the Gold Coast attended by 800 Australian travel professionals. Since EMTA commenced its product evenings over 6,000 Australian travel agents have learned about the region.
EMTA’s members are mainly wholesalers, airlines and national tourist offices. As a strategy for long haul regional tourism marketing from Australia, EMTA has benefited all its members by giving them a platform to promote regional Eastern Med tour product and travel agents enjoy the opportunity to be briefed about the product and destination highlights of 15 countries in a single evening.
The EMTA model has proven its success in Australia over eight years and would be equally successful in other long haul source markets to the Eastern Med including the Americas and Eastern Asia.
The author is the founder and current national secretary of the Eastern Mediterranean Tourism Association (Australia). The chairman is Iain Ferguson Regional Manager (Australasia) Royal Jordanian Airlines.