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Comment: McEvoy leaves solid legacy

The news yesterday that Andrew McEvoy is to leave Tourism Australia at the end of the year will come as a disappointment to many.

During his four year tenure as managing director, McEvoy has led the tourism agency with distinction having taken the reins at a difficult time.

Tourism Australia’s ill-conceived Where the Bloody Hell Are You campaign was still fresh in the minds of many – not least the offended Asian market – and Australia was facing stiff competition from rival destinations when he took over.

But with the launch of the There’s Nothing Like Australia marketing campaign, McEvoy laid solid foundations for the country’s tourism revival and the image of bikini-clad Lara Bingle swearing at potential visitors was consigned to the history books.

McEvoy, who was involved in the creation of Victoria’s long running jigsaw marketing campaign, always said consistency was key with marketing, and Australia had anything but consistency.

So it was no surprise when he said There’s Nothing Like Australia should be around for another 20 years. The campaign was drawn up with longevity in mind.

And in much the same way that Tourism New Zealand has successfully retained its 100% Pure messaging, TA has the opportunity to develop its own current tagline for the next decade or two. Of course McEvoy wasn’t alone in bringing the campaign to market, but it will be his legacy.

In addition, the last four years have not been without sizeable challenges. The world’s economy has hardly been in overdrive and the Australian dollar has gone through the roof. Yet still Australia has managed to more than hold its own, with arrivals and expenditure growing. It is relatively early days but TA is on track to achieve its ambitious 2020 targets.

As Australia’s traditional markets struggled, it may have been an obvious strategy to target Asia’s growing middle classes. But it’s one thing to plan, quite another to succeed and Tourism Australia has done just that under McEvoy’s stewardship.

Tourism Australia is also no longer reliant on Qantas. The flag carrier remains an important driver for tourism, its multi-million deals with several states and territories are testament to that. But TA saw an opportunity to partner with airlines from around the world and that has reaped dividends.

These aviation deals also helped minimise the fall out from TA’s spat with Qantas, which saw the carrier withdraw support from the national tourism body in favour of those direct deals with Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and others.

The timing of McEvoy’s departure is unfortunate given the recent change of government. There was stability and a common goal with McEvoy and Labor’s tourism minister Martin Ferguson working in tandem. But with a new politician and government overseeing TA and now a new CEO required, that stability could – could – be threatened.

But the building blocks are there. Whoever takes over at TA will find a far stronger and united tourism agency than when McEvoy took over.


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