GOLD Coast Tourism’s (GCT) ‘Very GC’ campaign has been canned as the organisation’s CEO admits the branding phrase ‘confused the market’.
GCT chief executive Martin Winter will roll out a new branding strategy for the city in 2011 and promises no gimmicks this time around. The Very GC campaign sponged millions of dollars in funding during a largely ineffective drive to seduce visitors to the glitter strip.
Rubber stamped by Winter’s predecessor Pavan Bhatia in 2006, the campaign was set up to drive brand positioning and expose the ‘new’ Gold Coast to key tourism markets in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
“One of the first things that I pushed through (as CEO) was to phase out the Very GC campaign. No-one knows what GC means. A lot of people don’t even know what the DC in Washington DC means,” says Winter.
“It confused the market place and was a significant barrier for joint marketing initiatives with TA (Tourism Australia) and TQ (Tourism Queensland). We have phased out Very GC and will soon be auditing a new re-branding campaign to be rolled out in 2011. One of the jobs I had to undertake was to repair our relationship with TQ and TA.
“I am not a guru or a marketing professor, however what I bring is experience in running a business. In tough times you need to be able to consolidate. My style is not to be exotic, not to have programs that aim to change the destination over night. It’s important to implement sound fundamentals which were missing previously, but it’s a hard grind.”
Australian visitors to the Gold Coast declined 9.6 per cent and Australian visitor spend on the Gold Coast decreased 0.9 per cent from December 2007 to December 2008 (Tourism Research Australia).
Martin says the organisation is undergoing fundamental changes as it launches its latest campaign ‘YourCoast’ to entice the key drive markets of Brisbane and Northern NSW. The former Adelaide Tourism boss has also taken on the challenging task of patching up relationships across the three tiers of government in the travel industry.
GCT has closed down its offices in India and Sydney to trim operational costs. By July 1, Winter is confident he can erase its million dollar debt to the Gold Coast City Council.
“We have completely shifted the modus operandi here and boosted the confidence of our stakeholders,” says Winter.
“There is a fundamental change in the organisation. We have moved away from brand promotion and are focusing on an area that we have ignored in the past and that is the domestic and drive markets. Rather than spend money on ‘blue sky’ marketing, we will be concentrating on those markets that are important. The time is for new blood and a new direction and it’s time for us to focus on marketing activity which is more tactical.”
New Zealand remains the key international market for the Gold Coast. Annual figures (collated September 2008) indicate 211,088 visited the Coast last year – including 50,585 VFR (visiting friends and relatives).
“The New Zealand market is softening, it is the most important international source for the Gold Coast,” says Winter.
“We haven’t forgotten the big growth markets of China and South East Asia either.”
Winter believes the Gold Coast needs more five-star hotels despite Raptis Group’s stalled Hilton project.
“The message is that we take this very seriously. The industry is critical to the welfare of the people of the Gold Coast,” he says.
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