What is the economic value of bushwalking in South Australia?

Participation in bushwalking by visitors to South Australiaparticipation in bushwalking

Statistics published by Tourism Research Australia and the South Australian Tourism Commission indicate that[1]:

3% of recreational daytrips[2] undertaken in South Australia over the period 2012-2014 involved ‘bushwalking / rainforest walks’ as an activity. This equates to 347,000 daytrips over an average 12 month period.

Average daytrip expenditure in regional SA in the year ending June 2015 was $96 per trip. This equates to total expenditure of $33.3 million by day trip visitors that bushwalk.

10% of all overnight domestic visitors to South Australia participate in ‘bushwalking / rainforest walks’ as a component of their visit. This represents around 527,000 visitors annually over the period 2012-2014.

The average expenditure in regional SA by domestic overnight visitors was around $430 per visitor in the year ending June 2015. This equates to a total expenditure of $226.4 million by overnight visitors that bushwalk.

More than one third (38%) of international visitors to SA participate in ‘bushwalking / rainforest walks’ as a component of their trip to Australia. While this activity may not necessarily occur in SA it represents an average of 138,000 visitors over the period 2012-14.

The average length of stay by holiday / VFR[3] purpose international visitors to SA was 16 nights over the period 2012-14 while the average spend per night in regional SA in the year ended June 2015 was $86.

This suggests expenditure by international visitors to SA who bushwalk as a component of their trip of around $189.9 million.

The estimated expenditure made by daytrip and overnight visitor in SA who bushwalk is summarised below.

Day trip Domestic overnight International overnight Total
Visitors 347,000 527,000 138,000
Expenditure $33.3 Mill $226.4 Mill $189.9 Mill $450 Mill

The total annual visitor expenditure for all overnight visitors over the 2012-14 reference period was $5,100 million and expenditure by overnight visitors who bushwalk represents around 8% of total overnight visitor expenditures for the State.

While not all of the expenditure can be attributed to the direct influence of bushwalking as an activity (in most cases walking will be an ancillary activity) the data demonstrates the importance of bushwalking as a component of the benefits sought by visitors and suggests that walking should be prominently positioned within a broader nature based tourism strategy.

It is anticipated that significant infrastructure such as the Heysen Trail will be recognised and appropriately supported through tourism product development under the State’s nature based tourism strategy.

The understanding of the impact of walking would benefit from further analysis of TRA data and surveys of walkers in SA. Questions to be considered include:

  • What are the characteristics of walkers in South Australia?
  • What are the key motivations for walkers in South Australia?
  • What trails / regions are most attractive? Why?
  • What is the economic impact of walking in regions?
  • What is the value of tourism based on those visitors who travel primarily to walk?
  • What should be the product development priorities to attract more visitors interested in walking?

[1] Tourism Research Australia. Travel by Australians. International Visitors in Australia. SA Tourism Commission. South Australian Tourism Profile.

[2] Daytrip is defined as: Non routine round trip of at least 50 KMs and 4 hours away from home.

[3] Visiting Friends and Relatives

What is South Australia’s tourism brand?

As Kevin Keller[1] has argued brand equity resides in the mind of the consumer. Under Keller’s model  brand equity consists of brand salience, or the likelihood of consideration across situations and contexts, and brand attitude, or the beliefs about the brand held by consumers. While a destination may offer a range of experiences, the potential to change perceptions is limited and destination marketers should work within existing structures to achieve their objectives.

The competitive positioning of South Australia has been tracked in the past and the proportion of eastern seaboard residents associating SA with a set of image based attributes is summarised below[2].

A dashboard with these results specified against the other States and Territories can be accessed by clicking the following link: SA Tourism Brand

South Australia’s Destination Image

In his review of best practice in destination marketing George Whitfield[3]  concludes that “Failure to focus on a primary audience with a distinctive brand promise often results in a ‘me-too’, watered-down, committee-designed brand proposition that fails to differentiate and squanders resources” . It is argued that destination marketers should compete on the basis of attributes that represent the ‘core essence’ of the brand and a clear point of difference from competitors.

The experiences associated with South Australia by eastern seaboard consumers are primarily wine & food, followed by festivals & events and arts & entertainment. These attributes have sometimes been construed as a ‘lifestyle’ or ‘good-living’ positioning and communication strategies have been constructed at various times in the past to reflect this.

Internationally there are a number of destinations associated with ‘good-living’ and their attributes include wine production; opportunities to sample, learn about and purchase wine; distinctive regional cuisine and culture; relaxing climate; natural beauty; heritage architecture and luxury B&B accommodation. Whilst wine may be the primary association, the overall attraction is the result of the interaction of these various factors.

Brand Salience

While some might argue for a differentiated positioning consumers travel for a range of reasons and under a variety of circumstances. An alternative to a differentiated positioning strategy is a salience strategy under which the objective of branding is to ensure that a destination will be considered across a range of situations and motivational contexts. Under a salience strategy it is more important that consumers know something about you than it is to be liked or loved.

The chart below is derived from an academic research project ([4]) and specifies the proportion of consumers evoking Adelaide as a travel destination in response to a number of situational and motivational cues. The research was conducted in a competitive context against other Australian cities and further information in this regard is provided in the dashboard referred to above.

Recall of Adelaide in Response to Motivational and Situational Context

Of the prompts used Adelaide was most likely to be recalled in response to a driving holiday, a place where the visitor could relax and a place where they could indulge their senses.

The research found that for a category of domestic travel intention was explained primarily on the basis of a measure of brand salience – as opposed to a measure of destination image.

 [1] Keller, K 1993, ‘Conceptualising, measuring and managing customer-based brand equity’,  Journal of Marketing, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 1-22.

[2] SA Tourism Commission. SA Tourism Plan, 2003 – 2008.

[3] George Whitfield, 2005. Mountains don’t smile back. DMO World Destination Branding Master Class.

[4] Trembath, R., Romaniuk, J. and Lockshin, L.  Building the Destination Brand: An Empirical Comparison of Two Approaches. Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, 28, 804–816, 2011 .

What influence do visitor centres have on regional tourism in South Australia?

Greenhill Research and Planning recently completed the second stage of a 2 year project relating to the influence of visitor information centres in regional areas of South Australia on travel behaviour. A summary of the findings from the second stage has been published by Tourism Research Australia at  http://www.ret.gov.au/tourism/Documents/tra/Destination%20Visitor%20Survey/2012/DVS_SRR_SA_The_role_of_VICs_in_regional_SA_FINAL.pdf . The full report can be requested from TRA.

A survey of tourism operators was conducted for the study and it was found that visitor information centres were responsible for delivering 7% of operator sales, on average.

In an era in which tourism product is increasingly distributed online the research also found a significant proportion of operator revenue is still generated through direct mechanisms such as walk up (20% on average) and by phone (21% on average).   The findings relating to distribution can be accessed as a dashboard by clicking the link below. The chart can be filtered by operator type – hotel/motel, B&B/self-contained, caravan park, tour operator, attraction and cellar door.

Distribution dashboard

While some may feel that VICs are less relevant in the digital age, the qualitative component of the research found that consumers value the opportunity to discuss their travel plans with friendly and unbiased locals. This is particularly the case in an environment in which digital information sources may be regarded as less trustworthy due to bias, inaccuracy or lack of currency.

The project report provides analysis of the relationship between visitor centres and the promotion and distribution systems more broadly and provides recommendations relating to a range of issues including governance, relationship with operators, staffing, online distribution and travel agency registration.