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Top 7 takeaways from the ASTW Convention Cairns

By November 7, 2019 Stories
The view overlooking the beach from Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection | Top 7 takeaways from ASTW convention Cairns

In case you missed our Tropical North Queensland tans, we recently attended the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) 2019 convention in Cairns.

It was a sun-filled weekend of networking, learning about trends in the tourism industry and soaking up all North Queensland has to offer.

It wasn’t all fun and games though. Our team also assisted the Tourism Tropical North Queensland in providing famil and itinerary coordination support to over 100 domestic travel media across 15 different pre and post famils – #wedidit.

If you were suffering a case of FOMO while we were gone, we’ve collected our top takeaways from the 2019 ASTW convention.

1. Tropical North Queensland is the perfect destination for a travel convention

There’s something about Cairns. From the moment you step off the plane, feel the sunshine on your skin and warm tropical breeze – something clicks within. Peak holiday mode is activated – and that’s before you’ve even left Cairns Airport.

Hannah Statham Cairns Airport | Top 7 takeaways from the ASTW convention Cairns

Tropical vibes also courtesy of BossHan in the food hall.

There’s no conference chaos in Cairns. In fact, it’s hard to get stressed when you have tropical beaches, cultural experiences as well as two heritage-listed sites – the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef – a stone’s throw from the convention centre.

Throw in 300 days of sunshine per year, an average temperature of 28 degrees and you can see why Tropical North Queensland is the perfect location for what happens apres-conference as well.

2. Riley is a little bit of paradise

Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection | Top 7 takeaways from the ASTW convention Cairns

Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection lagoon pool

In the case of the ASTW conference, we took over Riley, a Crystalbrook Collection – one of Cairns’ newest hotels and only five-star accommodation in the CBD.

The hotel is located on The Esplanade (beachfront) and combines style and luxury, without feeling pretentious while it does it.

As conference guests, we were peppered throughout Riley’s 300 rooms, treated to their three exclusive dining areas (Paper Crane, Greenfields and Cairns’ highest rooftop bar – Rocco) and dived into their 1000 square metre lagoon pool, naturally.

The convention delegates were also some of the first guests to take a behind the scenes tour of Crystalbrook Collection’s sister properties Bailey and Flynn too, which we’ll be excited to sample in 2020 if (no, when) we make it back.

3. Local food shines bright

Many conferences are known for average food – stodgy sandwich fingers and cakes and biscuits from a packet – but not this one.

There was no need to whip out the ‘I’m on a diet’ talk – everything was fresh and healthy. Think make-your-own poke bowls, fresh and local in season tropical fruits, noodle boxes, smoothies and homemade sweet treats (including the vegan kind).

In keeping with this epicurean event, the ASTW gala dinner was catered by Palm Cove’s award-winning restaurant, Nunu.
Chef Nick’s paddock to plate philosophy reigned supreme with the likes of Tablelands pork belly, Innisfail heart of palm, locally sourced fish, beef and tropical fruits. We’re not kidding when we say people were fighting over their alternate drop choices and literally licking their plates clean.

4. Content is still king

Media Mortar ASTW sponsors | Top 7 takeaways from the ASTW convention Cairns

Look Ma, we sponsored an event!

If you’ve read this post of ours, you’ll know we are living in a world of storytelling and creating captivating content to engage with customers – and the first panel at the conference hit it home.

With consumer attention spans getting shorter and shorter, the topic for discussion was how do we create content that makes a strong connection with consumers?

Tourism Australia, Destination Canada, Tourism New Zealand and G Adventures led with insights, with a key theme that emotional connection is marketing’s secret sauce.

Our note pads were full with the following tips:

  • Make an impact – use humour and emotion to tell your story
  • Stay on message and stick to your brand values
  • Gritty is the new pretty – consider a switch to using unbranded content rather than over-polished TVCs
  • If your story is shit, no one will care
  • If you don’t have the big budgets, get creative – try crowd sourcing sites like Genero to find someone who will work for your budget
  • Create content for the long-term that can be integrated across multiple platforms – EDMs, social media etc

5. Even the most seasoned of travellers will experience travel disasters

It’s not every day you get to listen to travel writing royalty. The keynote speaker, Tony Wheeler the creator of Lonely Planet, undoubtably wears the crown in the travel writing community.

Considering Tony has more passport stamps than most, having travelled professionally for most of his life, he shared some insights on his favourite and not so favourite experiences.

Across the hour his travel tales proved that even the most seasoned of travellers have travel disasters along the road.

Hot tip: he said he wouldn’t bother with the Maldives. Good news for the rest of us who couldn’t afford it anyway!

6. With great social media power, comes great social media responsibility

Social media trends in tourism panel | 7 top takeaways from the ASTW convention Cairns

Spotto BossHan on the Tourism and Social Media Trends panel

It was fitting that the topic of responsible travel was a focus of the social media panel given the conference’s location at Riley who are leading the way with what they call #responsibleluxury.

MM’s own #BossHan was a panellist and championed along with the other speakers that social media influencers and social media account managers have a part to play in over-tourism and representing safe behaviour.

According to BossHan “it’s about always promoting safe practice and following a leave only footsteps philosophy”.

“Often times we come unstuck because we aren’t familiar with the region and that an influencer has crossed a barrier to take the photo. As social media experts, it’s our job to remove such pictures and only promote the consumer experience.”

“The days of doing it for the ‘gram are over.”

7. Travel is an opportunity to learn new experiences and meet wonderful people

Cairns Esplanade | Top 7 takeaways from the ASTW convention

Magic hour on the Cairns Esplanade

While we walked away with new knowledge from the conference, what we really walked away from the ASTW convention with was new friends.

The ASTW convention proved what we know and love about the travel community. It brings people together and welcomes newbies with open arms.

The tourism industry might be a small community, but it has a big heart, and life-long friendships to be made. We think that in itself is worth celebrating.

Here’s cheers to the 2019 ASTW convention in Cairns and a warm hello to the 2020 convention taking place in the Whitsundays. See you there?

Kristy Media Mortar
By Kristy de Git

If they were handing out PHDs for organisation, Kristy would be first in line to collect the scroll. She’s master of a to do list, which is why she’s aptly in charge of content at Media Mortar.