Vakantiebeurs: feedback from the Dutch show

The Australia area at the annual Vakantiebeurs in Utrecht this month, which is the largest travel industry trade fair in the Benelux, was as busy as ever.  While final official attendance figures have not yet been released by the organisers, it would be fair to say the numbers were similar to those of 2010 – which accounted for 18,000 trade visitors and 120,000 consumers.

With a certain irony, the 2011 event came at a time when parts of Queensland were struggling with massive floods. The Dutch visitors to Vakantiebeurs could relate to this as the Netherlands has a long history of serious floods, and has one of the best flood protection systems in the world. Flood control in the Netherlands is an important issue for the Netherlands as about two thirds of the country is vulnerable to flooding, while at the same time the country is among the most densely populated on earth.

Vakantiebeurs 2011 gave TCMG and other Australian exhibitors the opportunity to reinforce the message that most of Queensland, including Tropical North Queensland,  had escaped the flooding and was open for business – and that much of the flooded region will be back in the picture quite soon.

TCMG’s James Wilson and Lars Schubert were on the Tourism Australia-coordinated stand at the show, which gave them ample opportunities to promote clients such as Mirvac Hotels & Resorts, Delaware North Parks and Resorts and Castaways and Elandra Mission Beach to the Dutch and Belgian trade visitors; and also gauge Dutch and Belgian trends for the coming year. QAS Holidays, Travelessence and Pacific Island Travel (take a look at their websites) were among the major Dutch travel companies selling Australia at the show. The TCMG team discussed the coming year’s potential with these and other major operators from the Netherlands and neighbouring Belgium.

The show also gave TCMG the chance to catch up with some of the TA-trained Dutch Aussie Specialists, many of whom turned up for the well-attended Happy Hour on the trade-only day. There are more than 350 Aussie Specialist agents in the Netherlands, of which half are fully qualified.

Feedback from local operators, Aussie Specialists and consumers indicated that in 2011, many Dutch visitors would be returning to Australia for the third or fourth time and venturing to parts of Australia far off the beaten track – good signs for the more remote regions of Tropical North Queensland and places like Western Australia’s Kimberley region where TCMG client, El Questro is located. It was also evident that Dutch visitors were again planning for incredibly long lengths of stay while in Australia.

“Operators naturally showed some concern about the strength of the Aussie dollar, but pointed out that Dutch travellers wanting to go to Australia have been planning for some time,” says James Wilson, adding: “My feeling from chatting to people is that they will still go.”  At year-ending September 2010, there were 49,000 Dutch arrivals in Australia.