Should Australia update its image?

I was having lunch with a friend today and we got onto the subject of tourism in Australia and how much of our image seems to revolve around Kangaroos, people in Akubra hats, Beaches, and Aboriginal Dancers.

The thing is, Australia isn’t really about those things. True, there are lots of Kangaroos in the country but you’ll never see them hopping across Sydney Harbour Bridge or through central Melbourne. Certainly, people wear Akubra hats (I’m one of them!) but it’s not actually very common outside, well, rural Australia. Most places that our tourists are from have beaches anyway (although only we have a Great Barrier Reef, to be fair), and I can count the number of Aboriginal Dancers I’ve seen on one hand and have five fingers left over.

In short, I’m thinking it’s time that Australia revamped its image and moved away from the Kangaroos/Akubras/Beaches/Aboriginals thing and found something else to market to the world.

The problem is, I’m not entirely sure what that something else could be. Visit Australia, we’ve got some pretty good wines from South Australia (The Phantom State)? Visit scenic Brisbane and see for yourself how it’s possible to have a country town with 2 million people in it? Melbourne, the Emo Capital of the Southern Hemisphere? Sydney, The Only City In Australia™? Tasmania- Home of both remaining Tasmanian Devils? Alice Springs- Nowhere Near Ayer’s Rock, But You’ll Find That Out When You Get Here?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Australia a lot. But I think our image internationally has become a bit tired and is in need of a revamp. I’m not quite sure what form that revamp should be though, but I think the idea merits discussion…

Clock spider.

Cane toad?

I think that all “images” of foreign places seem trite to the locals, and frankly most of the rest of the world after a certain amount of time. The problem with realism in gaining the tourist dollar is that real images are tough to get across in one image and not be boring and the same as everything else.

It’s a fine line between blandness and stereotypical idiosyncracies. And the popular images of other places mostly aren’t true, either (most frenchmen aren’t haughty, most Americans aren’t cowboys, most Floridians don’t live five minutes from a beach…okay, that one’s true.)

Don’t try to change your image. if people realized how great Australia is, you’d be over run with stupid Americans. Cultivate your strengths, and try to develop some marsuspial based fuel so that tourists from America, Europe and Asia can experience your beauty, but don’t stay for the long term. Well except for me, because I’m a nice American, and I’m going to open a fast food stand in the suburbs of Sydney that will rock your world.

Unless you’re trying to be an imperial power (and take it from a Yank, that’s more trouble than it’s worth), the only point in having an “image” is to draw in the tourists. Can you think of a more tourist-friendly image for Oz than what you’ve got now?

I’d like you to substantiate why Brisbane is a country town? I think you may be 30 years out of date.

Yes, yes it is. Well, you should add in monstrous crocodiles, lots of venomous animals, and the whole “founded by criminals” thing also. But that’s what brings the tourists there.

Your problem is you’re really, really far from everyplace else in the world. So you need to sell yourself on the things that are available nowhere else. Good wines? You can get those anywhere in the world. Sydney? Beautiful city, but when you get down to it, no one flies 24 hours to see a city. Tasmania? Again, nice, but once you’ve seen the Devils and gone on a night drive to find a Thylacine, it’s time to leave again. So stick with what makes you unique.

Don’t get me wrong - my wife and I honeymooned in Australia 10 years ago, and absolutely loved it. But we loved the kangaroos, the crazy hats, the GBR, the monster crocs, the cane toad change purses, the constant fear of being mugged by the descendants of criminals, etc. We wouldn’t have come otherwise.

I don’t have a cite handy, but there was a report a couple of years ago that angered many in the tourism industry here. It basically said that although yes, Australia has fine cuisine, exquisite art galleries, fantastic music, and all the rest of it, if tourism promoters were honest with themselves, they would realise that the cries to advertise this stuff are more to do with easig their own cringe than anything else. The report said that the best thing for Australian tourism to do was to redouble its efforts to continue the current image of kangaroos, surfboards, funny hats, and weird-looking trees. Americans and Europeans aren’t going to fly to the arse end of the planet to see an art gallery when they can do that close to home.

Yes, I find some of the exported imagery embarrassing, but if it keeps the tourist bucks rolling in, we might have to get used to it. It made Steve Irwin a rich man.

I have liked most Americans I’ve met here, but the bastards didn’t open any decent Mexican restaurants. Not one of the miserable sods. Make your fast food place Mexican (Cajun/TexMex whatever), and I’ll personally pay your airfare.

We have some of the best food in the world here, but for some reason no decent Mexican.

Jeez, next you’ll be telling me people don’t walk down the street playing didjeridoos and wobble boards.

Australia - More poisonous animals than anywhere else on Earth!

Australia - Like England, but without all the Pakistanis.

Australia - A whole freaking continent of Empty.

Australia - You know, the guys who broke your “longest winning streak in the history of sport.” Hey, wait! Come back!

Let’s not update the image: we don’t want any more visitors or immigrants going to Australia.

My home in Australia is a short walk from this beach – the picture taken about 6 months ago, i.e., in summer. Note how few people are on the beach, which is in the middle of the 6th or 7th largest city in Australia. I don’t really want the crowds flocking there when I go home, thanks.

I am from the great state of Louisiana. Many people think that the whole state consists of swamps, alligators, hurricane Katrina damage, Jazz, Cajuns, and Mardi Gras. Many people also assume that New Orleans only presents a debacherous and interesting atmosphere during Mardi Gras. The thing is that all of things really do exist although some are spread out geographically. Tourists can find one or more of them during a regular vacation although they aren’t in one place and it would take a while to explore it all. There is no problem with that image because it isn’t truly inaccurate. Louisiana’s secondary attractions are still superior to the top attractions in many other states. I would leave Australia’s image alone. Most people have a romantic image that comes from lots of places including Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin. If those images entice people to visit then people will figure out what else it offers on their own.

Play to your strengths, mate!

That said, I thought the recent “controversial” So Where The Bloody Hell Are You? campaign did a fantastic job of highlighting the clichés in a novel and memorable way.

I hate to say it, but as a prospective tourist, I agree. Why the hell should I fly to Sydney to see a big city with big city things when I have a big city with big city things 35 minutes away? If I want a different language there’s one a one-hour flight away. I can be in New York City in a couple of hours.

If I’m going to go all the way to Australia, it’s sure as hell not going to be to drink the wine, which I can buy here. It’ll be to see the things that are uniquely AUSTRALIAN. I want kangaroos, koalas, and to take my kid someplace they sell Wiggles merchandise. If while I’m there I discover a fine restaurant, or a nice museum, or something else cool besides the outback and Great Barrier Reef, that’s great, but if you want my money, you’re going to attract me with Crocodile Dundee stuff, not the stuff I can get in Chicago.

Not that Australia is alone in missing the point. Right now Ontario’s running a lot of touristy ads. They include a wide variety of images that encompass everything Ontario is. The problem is, of course, that Ontario is basically everything; it’s a place the size of France and Spain combined, with thirteen million people, every kind of country from virgin wilderness to urban concrete jungles, and every conceivable sort of activity and attraction. So the ads are just a jumble of unconnected images that don’t engage the viewer in any sort of clearly formed idea of why it would be a cool idea to go to Ontario. About the only lasting impression you get from it is that Ontario is very mutiracial and gay-friendly, which is nice but hardly a compelling reason to ante up your hard earned cash to go see it, as opposed to going to the Caribbean or on a cruise. It’s like flipping through an entire Sears catalogue in twenty-eight seconds and trying to decide what you want to buy.

In fairness, I find this a slightly bizarre attitude. I live 60 miles from a big city. It’s London. It’s not New York though. If I want to see the majesty that is New York, I have to fly. And particularly, it’s not Sydney, which is an absolutely amazing place: the harbour, the architecture, the beaches, the food.

Each big cosmopolitan city has its own unique appeal. What you’ve written reads like the old joke: “What shall we get Pete for Christmas?” “Get him a book.” “No, he’s already got one of those.”

I’m not saying I’d fly for 20+ hours just to visit Sydney on its own, but it is a big fat bonus in the Australia tourism package.

(And I have never once in my life heard of someone traveling just to hear a different language.)

Well, in North America, that’s one of the attractions of Quebec Province: they speak a different language, which means that the culture is different from anglophone North America.

Yeah, well, as has been said, most “tourist” images tend towards the trite and stereotypical (and photogenic). Scotland is not all tartan, kilts and misty mountains, and England is not all Shakespeare and Morris dance, and Wales is not all coal mining and male voice choirs and eisteddfodau.

But people WANT kangaroos, or at least the idea of them. City, blech! Opera, long way to go for it, blech. Nice famous bridge? Blech! Football of strange rules? Cricket? Bah! But a place with Skippy. icon of childhood television, in it? Much more memorable and noticeable. :slight_smile: AND the infamous scary spiders and snakes, but you can keep quiet about them if you like. Likewise Kylie Minogue.

Funny, I’ve just realised that one thinks of Aboriginal paintings before thinking of dances. Another abiding image (from the U.K.) is the “christmas dinner when it is summer” thing.

Make a tourist campaign saying that if tourists think Oz is upside down, they might want to realise that their own touristy ideas are upside down, but keep the kangaroos etc.

Or at least send one to me: I could train it to come along and help me carry the shopping home. :smiley:

Well, people do, surely, at least when they are learning a language. Admittedly school trips are often just for shit and giggles, but think of studying a language at school then at university, you want to go and visit the place or work there for a while, for a mixture of self-improvement, cultural interest, and general fun. Mustn’t forget that last one! :slight_smile: