SYDNEY — Tourism Australia has selected OPR to lead global and regional PR support, following a competitive review that also included local market assignments in China, North America, India and Japan.

The country, which is expecting a record number of international visitors in 2019, counts on tourism as a critical sector, responsible for A$55bn in direct economic benefit and a key source of employment.

In Australia, OPR has been appointed to complement the work of Tourism Australia's other marketing services agencies, which include M&C Saatchi and Digitas. A key objective of the partnership, according to Tourism Australia public affairs manager Kim Moore, is to develop creative PR-led activations that align with Tourism Australia’s vision of becoming the most desirable and memorable destination on earth.

In addition, Tourism Australia has consolidated PR support in a series of local markets, including the country's top source for foreign tourists, China, where Reuter Communications has been hired. Elsewhere, Tourism Australia has selected MSL Japan (Japan), Citizen Relations (USA and Canada), and MSL India (India).

Tourism Australia previously used a panel of agencies for each of the various markets under review.

The key tourism markets of Indonesia, the UK, Germany, France and Italy were not part of the recent procurement process due to the different timing cycle for public relations services. In those markets, Tourism Australia works with Fleishmann Hillard (Indonesia), Hope and Glory (UK), Hansmann PR (Germany), Article Onze Tourism (France), and Tourism Hub (Italy).

The arrangement with the new agencies is for a period of 24 months with the option for a 12-month extension.

Australia is expecting 10m visitors in 2019, after growth of more than 5% in 2018, although that rate has slowed slightly compared to 2017. Regardless, the country's tourism sector has boomed in recent times, with visitor numbers up 44% over the past five years.

“As international travel has become more accessible, it has also become more competitive," said OPR CEO Richard Brett. "Tourism boards globally are increasingly seeking out new and innovative approaches to achieve cut-through and resonate with potential travellers. We feel Tourism Australia is at the forefront of this movement, and we’re thrilled to be their PR partner of choice heading into 2020."

However, the tender document hints at challenges that tourists to Australia might face, specifically travellers "feeling overwhelmed" by "a cluttered marketing environment and low familiarity of Australia’s geography and experience." Accordingly, agencies were asked to demonstrate the "'why now', 'how to' and 'ease' of Australia to the target audience to overcome the complexity of Australia as a holiday destination."