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ARTICLE InspirationJune 26, 2014

Tourism series, part 4: Q&A with Tourism Top End

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Tourists planning a trip to Australia’s stunning Top End can now book more than 300 products directly on Tourism Top End’s website. General Manager Trevor Cox explains how Tourism Top End has embraced e-commerce.

From Kakadu National Park to Arnhem Land and tropical Darwin, the Top End of Australia is blessed with some of the country’s most iconic natural and cultural tourist attractions.

Over the next few months, thousands of adventure-seeking visitors from Australia and overseas will flock to the Top End during the dry season to experience these world-famous attractions for themselves.

With no shortage of products to market, tourism organisation Tourism Top End says online and e-commerce is now a key element in its sales and marketing strategy.

Testament to this is Tourism Top End’s website, which now has 300 bookable products such as accommodation and tours, supported by the Bookeasy reservation system. This is in addition to a further 250 non-bookable items, which allow users to do in-depth research.

Tourism Top End’s General Manager Trevor Cox talks about the growing role of e-commerce for tourism organisations.

Who are the majority of visitors to the Top End?

"About 80 per cent of our visitors are domestic and the remaining 20 per cent are international. We get a pretty good consistent mix nationally, but we do see variations in states by months. About 6 per cent of our visitors come from cruise ships."

What is the value of tourism to the Top End region?

"Tourism contributed $1.4 billion to the total gross value added (GVA) of the Northern Territory in 2011. Tourism’s share of the territory’s gross state product (GSP) was 9 per cent and the sector employed 9 per cent of people in the region. The Top End is less reliant on tourism than the central regions, but it is still significant."

As a member organisation, we had two main needs: firstly, from a consumer perspective, we needed to ensure users could book with confidence; secondly, from our perspective, we have a large amount of product on the website, and we needed to ensure we were a safe and secure agent for our operators."

Trevor Cox, Top End Tourism

How have you upgraded Tourism Top End’s website?

We invigorated the website at the end of 2013, which was aimed at achieving three things: we wanted to provide more in-depth and quality content for users; it needed to be more aesthetically pleasing and easy to use; and it needed to be sales-focused. Now it includes a booking widget and the whole site follows e-commerce best practice. For instance, we made sure the “book now” button was at the top of the page and that we minimised the path to making a booking – in three clicks consumers can get products booked.

How has the improved website helped with bookings?

"In 2014, our online bookings are up 20 per cent on last year. The lead times are also really good – we are now averaging 80-day lead times. This is much better for our operators, especially with visitor centre lead times being really last minute. We also measure the number of leads that are generated from our site to the members’ sites or reservations emails. Currently, we average in excess of 3,500 referrals a month. This all generates a substantial dollar value of bookings and we can clearly see that e-commerce best practice is driving growth in sales."

Did you know?

Tourism contributed
$1.4 billion to the total gross value added (GVA) of the Northern Territory in 2011.

As a member organisation, how do you manage the website?

"Our membership manager manages our members and makes sure each one is set up with all the information they need to manage their products on the site. Each member is provided with a password and access, they are trained on how to make updates and get their information uploaded, and then the onus is on them to keep their pages updated. We do encourage them around key dates to ensure the correct rates are loaded and that their new tours are up."

Why did you implement a SecurePay payments gateway?

"We took advice from our web designers. As a member organisation, we had two main needs: firstly, from a consumer perspective, we needed to ensure users could book with confidence; secondly, from our perspective, we have a large amount of product on the website, and we needed to ensure we were a safe and secure agent for our operators. Integrating SecurePay has been a seamless process – I can’t remember an instance where we have had a problem."

How do you ensure that the website is keeping up with online best practice?

"We work closely with our web designer, Impart Media, and tap into their skills and expertise, and we work with KPMG Consulting, which offers us best-practice digital advice. We also work closely with Tourism Northern Territory, as they have a lot of experience in digital marketing. We treat our website like a physical employee – we give it the same care and attention that all our staff deserve and get."

How important is content and information to the website?

"Providing quality content is vital for users who are researching a trip. It is also important for assisting with our organic rankings on Google. Our operators are becoming much more knowledgeable about digital marketing, which also helps with our and their Google rankings."

What is your top tip for organisations looking to introduce online improvements?

"Bring everyone along for the journey. We have 13 employees, and we are focused on ensuring we are sharing e-commerce knowledge with them and training them. If you can, get your people to embrace the online change and feel part of what you are doing."

Did you know?

SecurePay integrates with online booking systems, including YesBookit and Bookeasy.

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