Think of tropical islands, and you instantly conjure up images of secluded paradises – and maybe a coconut. Traditionally a popular destination for HNWI travellers, buoyed by their inherent isolated locations and exclusive high-end experiences, islands are poised to be one of the first luxury travel sectors to bounce back.
Hear from our Luxperience 2020 panel about how these destinations will lure luxury travellers back to their idyllic shores and what challenges they will face as they re-focus on more local source markets and why island destinations have a unique advantage when it comes to the rebound. If you missed the session or would like a recap of the session check out our 5 takeaways below!
1. Ability to control and adapt
Over the last 3 years, the Whitsundays have dealt with major hardship, especially after the devastating effects of Cyclone Debbie in 2017.
Tash Wheeler, CEO of Tourism Whitsundays shared with the panel, “We had the strongest 12 months in tourism leading up to Cyclone Debbie…everything was on an amazing track forward.”
The aftermath of this natural disaster forced everyone in their industry to learn to be more agile and very resilient. “It took us 18 months to recover…2020 was meant to be a year of celebration.”
When COVID-19 hit, these previous challenges prepared Tourism Whitsundays to be able to adapt and work quickly to change their strategy.
Being an islands destination, both Tash and Crystal Kranz, Marketing Manager, Australia of Cook Islands Tourism Corporation, discussed that they have a greater ability to control and adapt to the changing restrictions we are facing.
“We’ve been really lucky to have been COVID free from the beginning,” says Crystal who went on to explain the Cook Islands Promise, which is a mutual agreement which ensures a commitment binding hosts and guests of the islands to keeping one another safe. There is also the CookSafe app, which greatly assists in contact tracing. “Number one priority is the safety of our consumers and clients…We’re ready for this to happen, when it is safe to do so.”
There is a natural advantage of being an island destination, says Tash, “Our resort managers are like the mayors of their islands. They have the ability to control what comes in and what goes out.”
2. Continued investment
Tash assured the audience that there are still investment opportunities and developments still in the works in the Whitsundays. To name a few, the world’s first underwater hotel in the Great Barrier Reef opened last year and there are active projects happening on both Lindeman Island and Hook Island.
“There’s definitely a lot happening and there’s always people here looking at what opportunities there are and what they can purchase…We’ve seen millions of dollars over the last few years in investment.”
Although the pandemic may have paused or slowed down the flow of investment projects in the Whitsundays, it did not diminish the region’s future and its continued development.
3. Relationship between industry and advisors
Crystal spoke of her enjoyment of speaking directly with advisors in order to provide the most informative advice that can then be relayed to clients. “We get everything from the very basic questions like ‘what are the most popular islands’ all the way up to the very specific.”
There have been opportunities during this time for training with the industry for advisors and travel professionals.
“Webinars and digital training experiences have been really popular during this time”, says Crystal, adding that she hopes training seminars like this which are more accessible and easy to attend, will continue into the future and become a normal part of the tourism industry.
Tash added that whilst they haven’t been able to run face-to-face training sessions and fly professionals in to the Whitsundays, they are still “all about 1:1 training”, providing opportunities to meet with the tourism industry in the Whitsundays and share the knowledge and experiences on offer in the region.
4. Still in high demand
Whilst the consumer is changing the way they are travelling, there is still such a high demand for island travelling. Experiences that are usually booked well in advance, are now being snapped up quickly.
“We have offers that would usually be booked 3 months in advance, and we are having customers ring up and book to travel in 2 days.” Says Tash Wheeler, CEO of Tourism Whitsundays.
Although the borders still have not opened for the Cook Islands, Crystal was enthusiastic for the demand, “we know the appetite is there, so it will just be working with the airlines and bodies to ensure we maintain and savour that appetite once the borders do reopen.”
5. Diverse offerings
One of the many benefits of travelling to island destinations is the diverse range of experiences they offer. In the Cook Islands, Crystal spoke of the many different tourist opportunities in their region, ranging from luxury to adventure.
“The culture and experiences are richer…there are great outer island experiences too, especially for those looking for more of a unique and adventurous experience.”
“While we are a diverse range of destinations…we have a huge opportunity because of our island resorts” says Tash, which offer different experiences for anyone and on any budget. She adds, “We are the sum of all of our parts” highlighting how each island offers something different in the Whitsundays, but they work together to create unique experiences.
Quentin Long, Co-founder, Australian Traveller Media
Tash Wheeler, CEO, Tourism Whitsundays
Crystal Kranz, Marketing Manager – Australia, Cook Islands Tourism Corporation