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Heather Ramsay: Queensland's charm offensive

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The Aussies are at a bit of a loss about what to do if visitors stay away. Photo / Jim Eagles
The Aussies are at a bit of a loss about what to do if visitors stay away. Photo / Jim Eagles

Natural disasters have put the tourism sectors in Christchurch and Queensland on the back foot but in their typically confident way, the Aussies have already come out swinging with the cleverly named "Nothing beats Queensland" campaign.

This multi-faceted strategy between the Federal and Queensland State Governments aims to tell the world that the state is able, ready and eager to welcome tourists.

It will inject $16 million into reinvigorating the state's $12 billion tourism industry, with strict timelines and budgets targeting domestic visitors, youth and adventure travellers, and key international markets. Kiwis are Queensland's largest international market, so until the $1.3 million allocated to entice us over runs out, expect to be wooed by images of sun-kissed islands and beaches, cuddly koalas and kangaroos, exciting theme parks and remote rainforests.

In a bold move, the strategy included a so-called mega-famil (famil being industry jargon for familiarisation visit) which saw almost 200 domestic and international media descend on Queensland in the last week of March.

It encompassed news journalists, travel writers, broadcasters and bloggers, and included representation from media heavyweights CNN, the Shanghai Morning Post, Travel Channel China, and India's The Hindu, to name a few. Somehow my name was on the invite list, and my group of 12 probably typified the scale and scope of the event.

We hailed from seven countries, and our schedule saw us cruising the Noosa Everglades, snorkelling on Lady Elliot Island, sailing to Fraser Island then exploring it by 4WD, taking the Tilt Train to Brisbane, then transferring to the rainforest of Lamington National Park.

Similar groups experienced other parts of Queensland and by the time we all gathered in Brisbane on the final day, we'd been wined, dined and indulged enough to soften even the most hardened newshounds.

The charm offensive continued at a press conference with politicians and tourism chiefs calling us "our wonderful media friends" and former test cricketer Matthew Hayden on hand to sign the new "Queensland Pledge", an undertaking from tourism operators to give visitors the holiday of a lifetime.

Hayden proved particularly popular with the Indian contingent, but at the grand finale at Brisbane's striking riverside Gallery Of Modern Art many more (myself included) were wowed by Australia's star-pulling power when surprise guest Cyndi Lauper gave a brief but intimate performance in support of Queensland. That was followed by a sumptuous meal, more entertainment and an extravagant fireworks display over the river, all for the benefit of visiting media.

The whole strategy would be hard to beat, but for the sake of Christchurch and New Zealand tourism I hope our leaders will dream up something as bold and innovative as their Australian counterparts, to let the world know that we're still open for business.

Heather Ramsay is a freelance travel writer

- NZ Herald

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