Promoting Travel to Sydney in the Lead Up to the Olympics
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Holmes Report

Promoting Travel to Sydney in the Lead Up to the Olympics

Tourism New South Wales commissioned Weber Shandwick Worldwide to manage a media relations campaign to promote the state in the Singapore media, with excellent results.

Paul Holmes


With the Sydney Olympics just around the corner, it would be easy to assume that tourism in the Australian state of New South Wales (of which Sydney is the capital) would be experiencing a boom.  But in fact, authorities were concerned that many tourists might bypass Sydney for fear of overcrowded facilities and/or high prices.   Tourism New South Wales commissioned Weber Shandwick Worldwide to manage a media relations campaign to promote the state in the Singapore media, with excellent results.


In the aftermath of the 1997-98 Asian economic crisis, Australia’s tourism industry embarked on an aggressive drive to regain lost traffic from the region. The continent’s respective State tourist boards, each vying for a piece of the potentially lucrative pie, launched aggressive promotional campaigns. The Singapore market was a key focus for all, given its buoyant economy and relatively high consumer spend and propensity to travel.  

When Tourism NSW appointed Weber Shandwick Worldwide in mid 1999, we faced another major challenge: the forthcoming Sydney Olympics 2000.  Shandwick was tasked with creating a communications programme aimed to ensure that travel to Sydney would not slacken in the run up to the biggest event in Olympic history.


Manage the impact of the Olympics on tourism in the lead up to Sydney 2000.

Reinforce Sydney’s position as the leisure/lifestyle hub of Australia and a leading tourism capital on the world map.

Position New South Wales tourism and hospitality industry as innovative and forward thinking.


Shandwick identified three major issues to address:

An Australia-weary media in Singapore.  Most media regard Australia in the generic sense, resulting in reluctance among editors to feature Sydney/NSW if an article had recently been published on another Australian city or State.

Price concerns.  The public and travel industry were wrongly presuming that the prices in Sydney would be escalating simply because the city was hosting the Olympics.

The ‘been there, done that’ mind-set.  The most popular western-culture destination, a large segment of Singaporeans have been to Australia, and Sydney in particular.  We needed to create a distinct positioning for Sydney from the rest of Australia, at the same time provide travellers with compelling reasons to re-visit Sydney even if they had been there in recent times.      


We positioned Sydney/NSW as a single destination offering visitors a comprehensive range of features and activities;

We leveraged its multi-award-winning title of World’s Favourite City by a highly respected travel magazine (Conde Naste Traveler) to give it global status as a world-leading tourism capital (not just another Australian city);

We highlighted the ‘refurbishment’ of Sydney and the many new and re-energised tourist attractions as it prepared to host the world’s biggest event of the year;

We demonstrated the value of experiencing an Olympic-ready city at cost-saving pre-Olympic prices; 

We designed a rigorous media relations programme that would deliver third party endorsement of Sydney and NSW’s holiday appeal.


Shandwick mounted an intensive media-focused communications programme including the following tactics:

Familiarisation Visit.  We identified every ‘A’ list media and presented each with a persuasive proposition to visit and write about Sydney and NSW.  This was a major hurdle to clear, given constrained manpower among editorial teams, similar invitations from other Australian States and national tourist organisations and a general lack of enthusiasm to cover Australia “yet again.”  Tagging the visits to new tourist facilities and locations, theatre and festival events, wine & dine facilities and themed features, we succeeded in getting editors’ buy-in to our invitations.     

Media Bulletins.  To cope with the proliferation of tourist information on new attractions, Shandwick produced an easy-to-read newsletter from which the media could publish extracts of interest. This was cost-effectively distributed to an extensive list of media via fax and email. 

Feature Placements.  We produced a series of articles based on travel themes and offered them exclusively to ‘B’ list media.

One-on-one Interviews.  We maximised the visits of key tourism officials and tour operators to Singapore and pitched interviews with key print and broadcast media.


Despite the intensity of the programme and a challenging media environment, we had to work on a tight budget that was aligned to Singapore’s relatively small market size within the global context. To maximise allocated budget, Shandwick also supported the client’s efforts to negotiate with airlines, hotels and tour operators to defray costs of media visits.  Total expenditure for the year-long communications programme was 

approximately US$60,000 inclusive of third party costs, incidental expenses and Shandwick fees.  


Our media successes were above our and the client’s expectations.  Sydney/NSW not only outnumbered the other Australian States in terms of coverage in the Singapore media, it dominated in comparison with global destinations. In the 12 months before the Olympics, every ‘A’ list media wrote positively on Sydney and its surrounds, many repeatedly.  Articles based on Shandwick’s bulletins and features were published across the broad span of media we targeted.    

Quantifiable results included:

  • Over 55 articles, mostly major features, generated by Shandwick’s efforts 
  • A total number of 21 writers representing key Singapore media visited Sydney 
  • Editorial value worth S$1.4 million was generated

With positive media publicity, our client reported an overwhelming enthusiasm among travel operators to support Tourism NSW’s promotional initiatives, where months earlier there was a general consensus to avoid Sydney till after the Olympics.   
In the year ended 30 June 2000, tourist visits from Singapore to NSW increased by 45% over the previous year.  This was easily the highest growth rate recorded by any Australian state, with the next highest recording a 26% increase in Singapore tourists.

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