We were recently shocked to learn that enticing tourists to Gippsland doesn’t echo the script to the early nineties cult film Wayne’s World 2*; you don’t need to have a semi-naked First Nations man introducing you to Jim Morrison, who then implores, “If you book it, they will come”. No, it’s imperative that we educate potential visitors about what’s on offer throughout our vast region, and these are messages that need to be spread far and wide.
Destination Gippsland are a key body in the delivery of Gippsland’s story; they’ve recently released Eat. Drink. Gippsland (a stunning showcase of our food scene) and are busy developing further initiatives to assist the growth of our tourism industry. With so much going on, we were grateful to spend some time with Destination Gippsland’s CEO, Terry Robinson, to learn about our local tourism campaigns, why winter in Gippsland is ‘fantastic’ and more.
Please describe the role of Destination Gippsland.
Destination Gippsland’s role is to inspire, influence and lead positive tourism outcomes through partnerships across Gippsland. We were the first of the 11 Regional Tourism Boards to be established in Victoria ten years ago. We work with the support of all six Gippsland local government councils, state government agencies such as Visit Victoria, Parks Victoria and Regional Development Victoria, as well as the many businesses in our tourism industry.
We undertake marketing campaigns, co-ordinate industry training and development, encourage investment and advocate for policy and projects that will benefit the Gippsland tourism industry.
The visitor economy in Gippsland is a significant contributor to the region’s prosperity – it’s worth more than $1 billion annually and employs over 12,000 people. Our role is to encourage Gippsland’s visitor economy to grow sustainably for our communities and natural environment.
Destination Gippsland aims to promote the assets of our region to consumers and industry. How do you successfully target these different demographics?
Targeting consumers is all about research and understanding. Melbourne is our biggest source market with a small percentage of them loyal visitors to Gippsland. We try to reach those that haven’t been before and are likely to spend the most money. We do that by identifying and communicating to those who have an interest in our outdoor strengths (walking, cycling, surfing, boating), incredible food and wine or festivals.
For international visitors our influence is targeted at overseas travel agents, wholesalers and tour companies. We push them to include Gippsland when they sell an Australian holiday in countries where travellers enjoy itineraries that include regional areas.
We also work with car and campervan hire companies to encourage independent travel out of Melbourne or Sydney, as well as bus tour companies to encourage more group travel to Gippsland.
Which mediums are best for delivering the message of Gippsland?
It’s a combination of many communication channels to get our message out.
Encouraging people to travel is a competitive area as international and interstate destinations are investing heavily in advertising campaigns. We need every option working for us to be effective with relatively small budgets. We use a lot of social media and digital marketing and participate in Visit Victoria’s print and television campaigns, as well as generating as many editorial and public relations messages as possible. We continually host journalists and other media organisations in Gippsland so that they can spread the word on our behalf. We also attend many consumer events in Melbourne such as camping and caravan shows, cycling events and the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival promoting Gippsland and its produce.
How do you assess the success of your campaigns? Are there metrics that you apply?
Campaigns are measured in different ways, however we try to capture as much data as possible based on the purpose of the campaign and the call to action. This can include tracking web page views and duration, social media engagement, reach and frequency of any media used, PR space obtained and most importantly conversion to bookings.
Feedback from our industry partners is crucial.
Our longer-term goals are to increase overnight visitation, length of stay and expenditure, which we track on a quarterly basis separate to specific campaign metrics.
In recent years Gippsland has recorded strong growth in overnight visitation which is pleasing as this gives the accommodation and food businesses more opportunities than those created by day trippers. Visitor nights is therefore a more important measure than total visitors.
Gippsland encompasses a large area, is intra-Gippsland travel important? For example, how do we best inform a West Gippslander about the riches of far-east Gippsland?
Publications that reach across the region, like Gippslandia, are a great start. The stronger the networks that link our communities the better. Knowing and understanding our own region is really important.
Hosting friends and relatives when they visit us is also a great opportunity to showcase the experiences there are beyond our own area.
Local media outlets, social media platforms and word of mouth remain key communication tools for Gippslanders to take pride in and explore their own region.
What are some of the campaigns, bodies, events or people who you feel have been successful in educating others about our region?
There are many amazing people and businesses helping promote Gippsland to a wider audience. Examples include the Loch Brewery and Distillery, Tamsin Carvan from Tamsin’s Table, Rebecca and Jason Bingham from Refuge Cove Cruises who have launched new boat tours that go to the islands off Wilsons Promontory, Riviera Nautic showcases boating holidays on the Gippsland Lakes and Sallie Jones has done great work with the Gippsland Jersey brand to name a few. Towns such as Walhalla, Meeniyan and Mallacoota are also doing a great job in expanding their reputation as destinations with a difference.
Let’s dream big, say you had an infinite budget, what is a campaign that you’d love to see? How would you roll it out and who would be the target audience?
An infinite budget would be awesome! We would love to let a national audience know what an incredible place Gippsland is.
We are actually working on a new brand for the region that is based on five signature experiences: World class natural sanctuaries, alpine-inspired adventures, water lover’s paradise, paddock and ocean to plate goodness, and the villages and communities that connect the region. With a big budget this campaign would be repeatedly seen on television, magazines, billboards and social media in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra and backed-up by compelling website deals and offers to encourage bookings. The target audience would be what we call ‘real seekers’, potential travellers that are inspired by a real connection to nature through the people, land and its produce.
We would promote Gippsland as a place that will satisfy a taste for nature’s purest and finest; a sensory adventure for those curious enough to take the road less travelled.
What’s an aspect of Gippsland that’s gotten you most excited recently? Have you discovered any little pockets or escapes that are inspiring you?
Gippsland in winter is fantastic. We’re so much more than a summer or spring destination. The towns, walks, cafes and experiences are just as good at this time of the year. Sometimes you need to be a visitor in your own backyard. My family spent time during the July school holidays in Sale, Yinnar, Mirboo North and Traralgon and loved it.
*If you haven’t seen Wayne’s World 1 or 2 then hop to it, as it’s integral to your pop culture education. Party on Gippslandians!