“From Famine to Feast”: Australia is Hot Among Canadians

L to R: Paul Larcher, VOX International; Nicole Mitchell, Discover Aboriginal Experiences; Gustavo Inciarte, VOX International, Carol McLelan, Direct Travel. Jim Byers Photo

It’s a wrap for Australia Marketplace North America.

The take home from the many discussions and presentations is that Canada may be seeing a shift in the travel axis towards the Asia Pacific region.

Chris Alestra, VP Destination and Air Partnerships, Signature Travel Network, said Signature has gone from $8 billion a year in Australia business pre—pandemic to $11 billion.

Alestra said she thinks Europe will slow down soon, and that Australia, South America and Asia will be strong in 2024.

More than 200 buyers and sellers descended on the Marriott Westdrift hotel in Manhattan Beach, California for a three-day event that put Australian travel and tourism products front and centre. Canada was well represented, including employees from Goway Travel, Caledon Travel, and VoX International, which handles trade PR for Tourism Australia.

“Everyone’s so happy to be back in market,” said Meghan Boyd of Goway Travel. “It’s really a breath of fresh air, and everyone’s so positive. Australia is our best-selling country.”

“What we do is very curated, and Australia is like a blank canvas,” said Pat Lista, Vice President, Product & Growth at Arts & Leisure Tours. “Other destinations can be saturated but not Australia. What I saw (at the conference) was phenomenal.”

Some of the Canadian contingent at Australia Marketplace North America. Jim Byers Photo

Naomi Rogers of Caledon Travel is one of only a handful of Premier Aussie Specialists in Canada.

“The one-on-one meetings with suppliers are invaluable,” she told Open Jaw, the only Canadian publication at the Australia marketplace event. “I can reach them directly and meet with the people my clients will be dealing with” when they visit.

“I can really personalize tings, and you learn about new experiences, or maybe about beautiful areas nobody knows about.”

Tourism Australia officials this week said Canadian arrivals were at 74% of pre-pandemic levels for the 12-month period ending in May 2023, while the U.S. was at 66%. Canadian visitor spending has reached 92% of 2019 levels, while the U.S. is at 78%, said Chris Allison, Vice President, The Americas, Tourism Australia.

“Canada is outperforming the U.S.,” said Sue Webb, president, VoX International. “Canadians
are excited about visiting Australia. We also have more Aussie specialists in Canada
and new tour operators developing great Australia product.”

A fine breakfast at Australia Marketplace North America. Jim Byers Photo

In addition to meeting with suppliers from across Australia, conference attendees heard updates from Qantas Airways, Air New Zealand and Fiji Airways.

Oronzo Miccoli, EVP Americas for Qantas Airways, said it has relaunched service between SFO and SYD and that it’s long-awaited JFK-SYD service is scheduled for 2025.

Fiji Airways last year launched YVR flights to SYD via Fiji’s NAN airport, and recently launched flights from NAN to Australia’s capital, CBR.

“All of our research for both Canada and the U.S. tells us there’s a big appetite for Australia right now, and I think we’ll see that come through in the next 12 months,” Allison said.

Advisors listened intently to a panel discussion on travel trends in Australia and beyond. Several panel members said they can barely keep up with the demand for their services.

“We’ve gone from famine to feast,” said Jeff Adam, Director of Sales, Down Under Answers.


Travel advisors watch a marvelous didgeridoo performance at Australia Marketplace North America. Jim Byers Photo

“People want to stay longer, and they’re not putting things off,” said Premier Aussie Specialist Sunnie Rossi of Travel 100 Group. She also noted the current exchange rates are favourable for both Canadians and Americans visiting Australia.

Sharon Tidbury, President, Aspire Down Under, said travel advisors never went away, but that customers see more value than ever in hiring a professional.

Alestra said advisors are turning potential clients away. He also said agents need to charge fees for the services they provide.

Advisors today “don’t have the bandwidth for tire kickers,” she said.

In a separate presentation, Julie Cuesta, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, MMGY Myriad, said travel intention is still strong with American consumers.
Cuesta said 82% of boomers reported an intent to travel as of April, compared to 76% for millennials, 72% for Gen X’ers and 69% for Gen Z members.

On a per trip basis, boomers intend to spend more than twice as much as millennials, she said. Research shows millennials intend to spend $3,564 USD per trip, while Gen X’ers are looking at $3,940 and Boomers $7,725.

Jim Byers

Jim Byers is a freelance travel writer based in Toronto. He was formerly travel editor at the Toronto Star and now writes for a variety of publications in Canada and around the world. He's also a regular guest on CBC, CTV News, Global News and other television and radio networks.

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