Italian market remains big on honeymoons

BIT 2011 in Milan was very successful for The Conjoint Marketing Group. It was attended by James Wilson and Lars Schubert. The TCMG team were only at the show for the trade days -- but the consumer days at the weekend were pumping from beginning to end.

The honeymoon market makes up a massive portion of the current arrival figures. It is certainly the mainstay of the Italian market to Australia, at this time. This is crucial for most of TCMG’s clients, especially Delaware North’s luxury islands, Lizard and Heron, and their unique getaway, Wilson Island, a tiny coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef. The honeymoon market and visitors demanding top range properties was the main focus at BIT also for Mirvac Hotels and Resorts.

Due to the fact that the honeymoon market is so strong, the average spend of the Italian visitor is very high: while the international average is AUD 3,700, the Italian spend is no less than AUD 6,600.

Most Italian operators are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead. They say the strong Australian dollar is the biggest problem.

A few operators stated their turnover for 2011 to date was up 20-25 per cent. However, with the Australian dollar making a holiday to Australia between 10-17 per cent more expensive for the Italians than last year (the figure varied between operators) it is understandable why turnover is up. But at least it doesn’t seem to be putting off potential Italian visitors, say local operators.

As for competition, this year it appears that Fiji is looking increasingly attractive to some Italian operators. They say it is significantly cheaper now and offers a ‘similar’ beach/island/reef experience to Australia. Fiji has become more accessible with Qantas, whose rates from Italy are no more expensive than flying to Queensland.

This does present a small concern and our strong message to the Italian long-haul travel industry is that while Fiji does offer sun, island, beach and a unique culture, it does not offer the Great Barrier Reef, a big ‘must’ on most Italians shopping list when it comes to travelling Down Under.

The news of refurbishments at Lizard and Heron island resorts (complete on Lizard and about to start on Heron), along with commitments to maintain competitive rates for 2011/12 season, went down well with Italian trade visitors to BIT. -- especially given the news that some other resort islands on the Great Barrier Reef are still closed for business due to cyclone damage.