Travel Agents

EXCLUSIVE: What VisitBritain wants to see from Aussie agents

Hannah Edensor

VisitBritain’s CEO, Sally Balcombe, reckons Aussie agents know Britain better than most, and boy does she get how important they are to British tourism.

Speaking to Travel Weekly at the annual ExploreGB expo, Balcombe said despite their expertise, there is one thing she’d like to see more of in Aussie trade markets.

“In the Australian market, we’re interested in the market of ‘buzz-seekers’; they’re younger, more adventurous, and interested in seeing the slightly more off-the-wall things,” Balcombe explained.

“We get a lot of people from Australia, but they’re older, affluent, retired, so we want to excite that younger market, and remind them how cool Britain is, remind them what there is to do here.

“What we’d love to see from the trade is, if they’ve got that younger demographic looking for stuff, that they think of us.

“I’m not going to deny there’s lot of other cool places to go to. But with that group, we really need to excite them with some of this new stuff, and that’s what the [new ‘I Travel For’] campaign does.”

Balcombe acknowledged how massive the Aussie market is, and stressed how vital agents are in getting those travellers to the UK.

“It’s the fourth most valuable market in the world. And you’re the other side of the world from us!” Balcombe laughed.

“I mean, there are some big markets right on our doorstep, and yet you’re the fourth biggest, it’s amazing.

“Aussies come in big volumes, but they also spend – over one billion pounds – and they spend so much because they stay for a long time.

“And that’s where the trade comes in; they spread the word on how much there is to do here.

“Aussies travel for a long time, on very complicated trips – and that’s what agents do well.

“Plus, Aussie agents know Britain well. And we understand how important agents are in the Australian market,” Balcombe added.

But, she stressed, however well you think you know Great Britain, there’s always more to see and learn.

“We try to always start from the customer. What does the customer want?” Balcombe told TW.

“We’ve got lots of products but we don’t want to push it on you.

“With this [Australian] market, we know that the customers want to be excited, we know they’re digitally savvy, so we start from the customer and think about what they want.

“Then within that, we think, how can you sell it? So yes, we want to inspire people to come, but then we want to work with the trade to make that inspiration bookable.”

Balcombe shared that through a 40 million pound grant, known as the Discover England Fund, they’ve been able to launch pilot programs and uncover truly unique experiences that they then craft into bookable products.

And Australia is a market they’ve kept in mind during this process.

“Through the Discover England Fund, we have a lot of products about to come to market, and some of those are 1-2 years in the making,” Balcombe explained.

“And a lot of those are very tailored to the Australian market. We have built products specifically for the Australian market.

“Because we know you’re more adventurous, there are things around the national parks and walking that you’re much more prepared to do.

“So the national parks have got together and pulled this totally new bookable product. And the market they’re targeting? Australia.

“We’re as precise as that: we want you, we’re building product, we know you’re adventurous, what are the sort of things you want? This kind of stuff is coming to market very soon and will be bookable by the trade.

“We’re investing in the long-term, and Australia is a long-term market. You are important to us now, and you will be important to us in the future.”

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