East Coast Wine Trail

East Coast Wine Trail
East Coast Wine Trail

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Why Scott Morrison's tourism message is all wrong

For a guy with a long history in tourism marketing, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is disturbingly lacking in nous when it comes to sending a positive message.

Just as Morrison's government launched a mass media campaign in Britain at the time of the year when Australia is most prone to bush fires - a poorly-timed campaign that proved disastrous and was partially abandoned - now he's trying tell the world that Australia is open for tourism. 

Fully recovered from fires, plagues and pestilence. 

This at the same time as The Washington Post is headlining: "In Australia people are rushing to hospital is cities choked by smoke".

Scomo personally intervened when the US State Department published a warning saying American tourists should "exercise increased caution" when flying down under.

The advice has now been changed to "exercise normal precautions".

And he's told the world that Australian tourism is "open for business".

"There's a bit of a misconception overseas that the entire continent has been affected," he said.

"You can still go swimming on the reef, and still be visiting Kakadu."

All of which is absoutely no use if you've booked a stay at Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island, on the NSW South Coast, or have been planning a few days shopping in Melbourne - which yesterday had the worst air quality of any city on the planet. 

Or visiting Sydney, where the air quality is "hazardous". Or going to the races, when meetings in Melbourne and the Yarra Valley were cancelled.

That news has spread globally, along with images of Melburnians and Sydneysiders wearing face masks to protect them from aerial toxins and of tennis players at the Australian Open collapsing and struggling to breathe,

Several players in Melbourne struggled to complete their qualifying matches due to severe heat and stifling air quality.

Slovenian player Dalila Jakupovic was leading in her match against Switzerland’s Stefanie Vogele at Melbourne Park, but was forced to quit after falling to the ground in a coughing fit. 

Australian Bernard Tomic and Canadian Eugenie Bouchard had to call medical timeouts due to issues from smoke inhalation.

Across town at Kooyong, Maria Sharapova called off an exhibition match with the German Laura Siegemund after both players found it hard to breathe.

What Scomo and his team of climate-change deniers seem not to understand is that images of the Australian Open qualifying and Sharapova's stand quickly spread around the world.

Via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, international television channels and even gold old steam radio. Folk from Winnipeg to Vladivostock are aware that you can't breathe the air down under and still have fresh memories of those horrific bushfire images, burning animals and people in tears. 

And most potential tourists are not able to distinguish between Melbourne and Mallacoota. It's all Australia to them.

They've rung family and friends here and heard some horrible stories.

Such scenes as they've seen on TV are not something you forget in a hurry. But instead of letting the dust - and the smoke - settle for a week or two, Scomo is at his blustering best.

Any overseas tourist arriving in Melbourne today, or on Kangaroo Island, the Adelaide Hills, Gippsland or the New South Wales south coast will find scenes ranges from distressing to devastating.

Far better to wait a week or two - both for tourists and Australia's motor-mouthed leader - before attempting to spread a positive message. Trying to be positive is understandable - but it is all in the timing. 

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