Build it and they will stay

Not offering anything different? The Gold Coast and Cairns continue to offer the same old holidays when Australians are seeking new experiences, according to the University of Queensland's Noel Scott.

Not offering anything different? The Gold Coast and Cairns continue to offer the same old holidays when Australians are seeking new experiences, according to the University of Queensland's Noel Scott.

Australians are willing to take holidays in their own country as long as there is something new to see or a special event to get involved in.

What would it take to convince you to have your next holiday in Australia, rather than jetting offshore?

Australia is one of the most sought-after tourism destinations in the world, regularly hitting the top of wish lists for travellers from other countries. But for those of us who live here, Australia tends to sink to the bottom of the pile.

Research released at the National Tourism & Events Excellence Conference in Melbourne suggests events could be a key factor in encouraging us to travel on home soil.

The Roy Morgan findings show three-quarters of Australians are interested in travelling for a sporting event or music festival. The weightings are incredibly even, with 25 per cent interested in sports events, 24 per cent in cultural events and 27 per cent in music events.

Single people are much more likely to travel for events than are couples, while those earning more than $50,000 a year are much more likely to travel for a specific event.

Young people favour music events, unsurprisingly, while those with children are more likely to attend sporting events.

The research fits with a pattern of Australians taking short trips within Australia. Domestic travel is showing signs of recovery from the economic doom and gloom but the number of nights away from home indicate many take only brief breaks.

Overall, the Roy Morgan research suggests almost 90 per cent of Australians will take a holiday in the year. Less than 60 per cent intend to take a domestic break, while almost half intend to head overseas (of course, some travellers will take more than one holiday).

The Tourism & Transport Forum says Australia needs big dollars spent on new tourism products to give Australians more reasons to travel at home. With the dollar tipped to remain strong, it will take significant investment in new accommodation and tourism products for Australia to compete, the organisation says.

However, investors could struggle to get a return on their money, with the Roy Morgan research showing travellers prioritise price over quality when it comes to domestic travel packages, while quality comes first for overseas trips.

The research also indicates that "group buying websites" such as Groupon and CatchoftheDay are likely to play a big role in domestic tourism into the future, entrenching a culture of discounting.

About a third of people have already used such a site to make a travel-related purchase - mostly accommodation within Australia.

An associate professor with the school of tourism at the University of Queensland, Noel Scott, agrees that Australians need specific reasons to travel domestically.

Participation in sports and cultural events are good drivers, giving people reasons to return to destinations or visit ones that were not otherwise high on their list.

"There is a tendency [among tourism promoters] to focus on the traditional holiday or the commercial resort-type holiday, and I'm not sure that's really meeting people's needs at the moment," Scott says. "If you look at traditional destinations such as the Gold Coast and Cairns, I don't think they're really offering anything different.

"They're tending to rely on overseas markets for their growth, rather than thinking about how they reinvent themselves for the domestic market."

Scott, a former research manager for Tourism Queensland, says many baby boomers have the money to travel but have already been doing so within Australia for decades.

"What are they going to see? Is there something that's going to interest them?" he says, adding that Melbourne has successfully created tourism around events and specific interests, while Sydney "potters along" with a few key events such as its Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

In the key holiday market of Queensland, Scott believes there has been a lack of innovation for at least a decade.

"They've put money into marketing but they haven't really put much money into product development and innovation," he says. He believes there has been too much focus on generic holiday types such as beach tourism - which can be found in numerous locations globally - rather than targeting specific reasons people might want to travel.

"There's no reason to travel to the beach today that's different to what it was 30 years ago," he says.

Age of the planner

Do we lose our spontaneity as we get older, or just get better organised?

Research to be released at the Tourism & Events Excellence Conference shows time spent planning holidays increases with age. The study says almost half of Australian overseas travellers aged over 55 start planning their holiday more than six months in advance, compared with only 17 per cent of those under 30.

Many under-30s plan domestic trips less than two weeks in advance, compared with only a handful of older travellers.

This story Build it and they will stay first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.