Australian tourism chiefs launched their biggest UK advertising campaign in more than a decade on Christmas Day in a bid to reverse a decline in British visitors, which they have linked to uncertainty over Brexit.
The A$15m campaign headlined by pop icon Kylie Minogue taps into longstanding ties between the two Commonwealth nations and forms part of a wider push to deepen the political relationship as the UK leaves the EU on January 31.
Canberra plans to be among the first nations to cement a free-trade deal with the UK and has flagged that it would like to discuss visa-free travel as part of any agreement.
“It is no secret that the UK has been going through a period of uncertainty, and this has had an impact on outbound travel, including to Australia where numbers have dipped in recent months,” said Simon Birmingham, Australia’s minister for trade and tourism. “It is crucial that we continue to drive growth from this market.”
UK visitor numbers to Australia fell 4 per cent to 714,400 in the 12 months to the end of October, as consumer confidence hit a six-year low in August amid fears that the UK could crash out of the EU without a deal.
Australian tourism chiefs hope that Boris Johnson’s election victory and parliamentary approval for his Brexit deal will bolster confidence and persuade more British people to holiday Down Under.
The UK is Australia’s fourth-biggest inbound tourism market and was worth A$3.4bn in the 12 months to the end of October. British visitors stay longer and spend more than other international travellers, averaging 32 nights on a visit and spending almost £2,700.
“We are very concerned about the UK market, where we have seen one of the biggest drop-offs during one of our most buoyant periods,” said Grant Hunt, chief executive of Voyages, which manages the Ayers Rock Resort, near Uluru.
He said that economic uncertainty and a confidence crisis caused by Brexit and elections had probably played a role in lower numbers of UK tourists visiting Australia.
The three-minute ‘Matesong’ advertisement, which was performed by Ms Minogue and comedian Adam Hills, aired just before the traditional Christmas Day Queen’s Speech on ITV on Wednesday. It featured cameo appearances by Australian sports stars, including former cricketer Shane Warne and Ash Barty, the women’s world number one ranked tennis player.
“The Queen’s annual Christmas speech is a key cultural moment in the UK, with millions tuning in to watch on television and many more online,” said Phillipa Harrison, Tourism Australia’s managing director.
The advertisement campaign comes at a difficult moment for Australia’s tourism industry, which is feeling the impact of deadly bushfires that are sweeping across the country during its summer holiday season. There are concerns that widespread international media coverage of the bushfire disaster could hit bookings from overseas.
“Apart from the obvious human devastation we are starting to see a dramatic decline in tourism numbers,” said Innes Willox, chief executive of Australia Industry Group.
“These bushfires are very clearly having an impact on economic activity.”