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Integrated Marketing Communications Media Plan for Fictious City in Australia

Culture and Community: A Cohesive Strategy for Sagetown

Author: Mahesh Ponnam

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Executive Summary
Cultural tourism in Australia presents a wide range of challenges and opportunities for the tourist industry. Among the challenges is the potential for Aboriginal culture to be exploited and commodified, thereby diminishing the value of indigenous art, religion, and practices. Sagetown (fictious city) is a small village in the Northern Territory that is severely, socioeconomically challenged. Though populated by local artists and farmers, there is a lack of cohesion in tourism efforts that has fostered significant animosity toward the tourist industry among local residents. By extension, the primary communications objective is to change opinion of cultural tourism among local stakeholders, reframing it as beneficial to the community and a vehicle for civic pride. Thereafter, the target populations will be those who take part in outback and cultural tourism in Australias Northern Territory; these are generally young adults between age twenty and thirty living in South Australia and Queenland and traveling independently (Leader-Elliot 2002: 36). The vision of Sagetown as a creative mecca of community collaboration will be channeled through a wide range of social media channels to access international audiences and Australian museums, galleries, and cooperatives sensitive to the Aboriginal culture.

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Table of Contents

Culture and Community: A Cohesive Strategy for Sagetown.............................................................1 Executive Summary..............................................................................................................................2 Table of Contents..................................................................................................................................3 Culture and Community: A Cohesive Strategy for Sagetown.............................................................3 Review of Literature: Cultural Tourism in Australia...........................................................................5 A Cohesive Vision for Sagetown: Communication Objectives...........................................................8 Strategies and Media Plan for Supporting the Vision..........................................................................9 Conclusion..........................................................................................................................................10 Bibliography.......................................................................................................................................11 Appendix.............................................................................................................................................13

Culture and Community: A Cohesive Strategy for Sagetown

Page |4 A formidable struggle facing the tourist industry in Australia is a lack of cohesion in marketing efforts (Leader-Elliot 2002: 35; Lee 2006: 47). While strategies may be solid, a lack of consistency in terms of programs, policy, and branding generates fragmented and confusing messages for all stakeholders, thereby jeopardising successful marketing outcomes and countering the likelihood that objectives will be met on time. Integrated marketing communications (IMC) holds the ability to boost the competitive advantage of organisations, combining, integrating, and synergising various media messages so that the consumer becomes more engaged and aware of branding (Black 2004: 53; Neumann and Sumser 2002: 9). Consistency and cohesion are paramount within the context of IMC, and a unified vision that grounds the IMC plan is paramount. The tourist industry in Sagetown has been burdened by a lack cohesion in its marketing efforts. Located in the Northern Territory, Sagetown is an indigenous community that has attempted to capitalise on outback tourism. There is a dearth of information related to the actual number of visitors to the region, but the residents of Sagetown cite that tourism efforts have brought dozens of European, young adult travelers into the area who are not cognisant of the environmental sensitivity of the area; this had birthed considerable resistance among residents of Sagetown to any tourism strategies related to exploiting the outback. The goal of Sagetowns tourism strategy was to mirror that of Flinders Ranges, bringing over 200,000 visitors the region annually with 25% of tourists being from Europe and the United States (Leader-Elliot 2002: 35). The bulk of tourists to Sagetown are between ages twenty and thirty and are independent travelers, with a small percentages being safari group tours. The primary activities of tourists to Sagetown are bushwalking, visiting historical sites, gem collecting, and experiencing the indigenous culture. Australian travelers to Sagetown primarily hail from South Australia and Queensland. According to the Outback Tourism Profile prepared by the Southern Australian Tourism Commission, the large majority of outback tourists spend most of their time walking around and exploring nature (60%), with other top activities being visiting restaurants (28%) and shopping (13%) (Leader-Elliot 2002: 35). Visiting indigenous cultures does not rank as a top activity for outback tourists largely because of a lack of connection between tourists and Aboriginal cultures (Leader-Elliot 2002: 39). Leader-Elliot (2002) suggests that failed attempts at outback tourism such as that affecting Sagetown are related to a lack of awareness of the part of tourists regarding the indigenous link to

Page |5 the Outback. The author cites that while surveys consistently show that tourists regularly buy indigenous crafts and souvenirs, they are unaware of the weighted impact of Aboriginal culture on their chosen destination. Sagetown is a small community populated primarily by Warlpiri Aboriginal people. The total population is just under six hundred people, and the town is markedly, socioeconomically challenged. In close proximity to more popular, cultural tourist destinations, Sagetowns greatest challenge is to distinguish itself from surrounding communities in order to tap into the formidable consumer market for cultural tourism in the region. Sagetown has attempted to cater to the tourism market by creating souvenirs such as t-shirts and mugs depicting traditional Warlpiri designs, but this strategy was condemned by the local council as exploitive and did not garner profits for the community. Overall, cultural tourism in Sagetown is affected by the same challenges and opportunities faced by other areas of Australia attempting tourism strategies fueled by indigenous cultures.

Review of Literature: Cultural Tourism in Australia

Surveys of consumers have suggested that while there is significant interest in indigenous tourism in Australia, perceived barriers exist related to low levels of promotion and lack of access (Gilbert 2006: 186; Leader-Elliot 2002: 39). A dearth of information on indigenous history, culture, and communities precludes cultural tourism throughout the continent, with outback tourism generally focusing on the environment and landscapes rather than heritage. The failure to adequately market cultural tourism in Australia stems from trepidation related to the exploitation of Aboriginal people, with the commodification of indigenous cultures being widely and fervently condemned (Gilbert 2006: 186; Leader-Elliot 2002: 37). At its worst, cultural tourism in Australia markets indigenous people narrowly and inauthentically, concurrently failing to give back to the Aboriginal community (Elliot and Boshoff 2005: 44; Gilbert 2006: 186; Leader-Elliot 2002: 35). Tourist literature generally offers few details about the indigenous people and reinforces dangerous stereotypes about the culture and practices in these communities. Alternatively, successful strategies such as that utilised by Birdsville aimed to amend the ills of cultural tourism and support the plight of indigenous people (Leader-Elliot 2002: 35).

Page |6 The emerging interaction between heritage and tourism yielded official recommendations by the Australian Heritage Commission, most of which supported the phrase tourism with integrity (Leader-Elliot 2002: 37). The core recommendations were as follows: clear and cohesive understanding of place significance, respect for cultural needs, the establishment and maintenance of community support, the development and maintenance of active partnerships between the community and the tourist industry over time, the development of site management practices, adherence to solid planning and business principles, delivery of a quality visitor experience, and constant reevaluation of marketing agendas (Leader-Elliot 2002: 38). In the case of Birdsville, these recommendations manifested as a tourism strategy grounded in sustainable tourism and one, key assumption; tourists experiences will be enhanced if they are afforded the opportunity to understand the meaning of the places they visit. The best practices in cultural tourism are all inextricably bound to the maintenance of community partnerships, with landholders rights respected and collaboration with Aboriginal councils and associations cultivated within all possible channels; this means that any presentation or interpretation of Aboriginal associations must be done by consulting with the Aboriginal community (Leader-Elliot 2002: 40). Cultural tourism is expanding radically in Australia, often forming a hybrid of eco-cultural tourism through which the natural environment is afforded as much attention as the indigenous culture (Lee 2006: 47). However, the acknowledgment and implementation of best practices in cultural tourism has yet to be done on a large scale, and communities such as Sagetown suffer in consequence (Lee 2006: 48). Community-based tourism is an emerging strategy that aims to support a mutually beneficial relationship between communities and the tourism industry (Carmichael 2002: 310; Gilbert 2006: 186; Thorp 2007: 107). Under this model, communities are the tourist destination, and tourists moneys are directly given back to the community. The infrastructures of rural communities are then fortified just enough to support tourism, with consumers attracted to the indigenous, daily life over commodified, cultural artifacts (Gilbert 2006: 186). In Australia, community-based tourism is in its infancy, with substantial barriers faced in policies and programming. However, cultural tourism has demonstrated moderately positive outcomes in Aboriginal communities (Elliot and Boshoff 2005: 44; Gilbert 2006: 188; Russell, Mort, and Hume 2009: 232; Thorp 2007: 107), thereby supporting the effectiveness of a potential hybrid between community-based and cultural tourism.

Page |7 The advantages of community-based tourism are considerable when the model is implemented effectively; these include civic beautification programs, infrastructural improvements, renewed interest in the heritage and culture of a community, special events related to culture and community, and preservation of stories, artifacts, and practices inherent to culture (Gilbert 2006: 186). Drawbacks of community-based tourism are generally caused by a lack of cohesion among stakeholders, with government interest in foreign investment often precluding local interests (Gilbert 2006: 188). According to Gilbert (2006), failed cases of community-based tourism in Australia have resulted directly from flawed implementation of the model. If community-based tourism is to work, it must mutually benefit both the community and the tourist industry; the community cannot support tourism without reinvestment taking place in the community, as this leads to overreliance on the tourist industry by communities (Gilbert 2006: 189). Redmond (2002) highlighted that purposeful ignorance of Aboriginal voices during strategic planning for cultural tourism will be the ultimate downfall of cultural tourism in Australia. The Northern Territory Commissions stance on cultural tourism has fluctuated significantly since the first cultural tourism brochure was published in 1993 (Parsons 2002: 14), with renewed sensitivity urged in the realm of cultural tourism to the possibility of exploiting Aboriginal people for profits. Parsons (2002) cites that tourist interest remains high for intimate experiences with daily living in Aboriginal communities such as Sagetown, and optimal tourist strategies will promote intimacy without exploitation. The goals are to support a mutually beneficial relationship between the community and the tourist industry in Sagetown, rejecting the need to exoticize the Aboriginal people or create an artificial, tourist-friendly destination. One of the most successful cases of effectively implemented community-based tourism is the Native Community of Infierno, a town of comparable size to Sagetown in the Peruvian Amazon (Stronza 2008: 244). Like Sagetown, Infierno exists in close proximity to popular tourist destinations and was consequently overshadowed by the local tourist industries in the area. Prior to the establishment of community-based tourism agendas in the town, Infierno was significantly socioeconomically challenged with the large majority of families living well under the poverty line (Stronza 2008: 244). Cohesive tourism efforts have since furthered the economic status of the town and garnered recognition by the United Nations. The crux of Infiernos strategy was the development of a large, weaving cooperative employing Native women who revived ancient

Page |8 weaving methods and designs. Tourists visit the cooperative, learn weaving techniques, and are able to purchased handwoven fabrics (Stronza 2008: 244). Stronza (2008) cites that the strategy did not intend for the project to use the community or the people themselves as the focus of attraction for tourists. Rather, we want to work with the community to develop the natural resources they have as a tourist attraction (245). Similarly, the strategy to be pursued by Sagetown will be a union between culture and community, with marketing efforts being consistent and cohesive in supporting the vision for Sagetowns community-based tourism industry.

A Cohesive Vision for Sagetown: Communication Objectives

Cultural tourism in Australia, very generally, has become markedly controversial (Parsons 2002: 15). By extension, the first communication objective is to change local opinion of Aboriginal tourism in Sagetown, framing it in terms of a community-based, mutually beneficial agenda. Subsequently, the second objective is to promote consumer interest in community-based tourism in Sagetown by establishing and influencing interest in the residents artistic and agricultural practices. Finally, the third communication objective is to develop the products image via online media. Because the consumers of community-based tourism are generally young adults and young families (Stronza 2008: 245), all of these communication objectives will cater to this population both inside and outside of Australian borders. The vision of Sagetown to be communicated in all marketing initiatives is a culturally rich community that values the sacred nature of song, food, and visual art. Tourists can visit Sagetown and stay on a family farm, aiding with the planting and harvesting, attend and observe religious ceremonies, and participate in an artists cooperative similar to that implemented in Infierno, Peru. The cooperative makes use of handmade dyes and paints in creating Warlpiri sculpture, paintings, and fabrics, and also has a restaurant on the premises. The majority of the resources used by the cooperative and restaurant are local, thereby benefitting family farms and producers. Tourists can also learn how to create indigenous art by taking lessons at the cooperative. The restaurant and artists are already present and working in Sagetown, and framing them as a cooperative is primarily a branding issue. Moneys garnered from tourists visits will directly benefit the community, supporting the cooperative and fortifying the infrastructure of the town. The primary communication objective is to influence local opinion of the new vision for Sagetown, cultivating the already existing emphasis on the link between the sacred and the arts.

Page |9 The target audience for this, initial objective is then the native population of Sagetown, the local council, and surrounding community. Subsequently, the promotion of consumer interest will stem from the establishment of the cooperative and communications to the target audience inside and outside of Australia. The large majority of cultural tourists to Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory are Australians from the South or Queensland aged between twenty and thirty (Leader-Elliot 2002: 35); they are independent travelers, couples, and families, with a smaller portion of the population being those who are on organised tours. The promotion of interest will be strategised similarly for all possible tourists, using internet media and social networking to establish sensitivity to Aboriginal art and perceptions of the sacred in indigenous communities. Development of the products image will target the same population as the promotion of interest objective and be done concurrently. The products image corresponds directly to the vision of Sagetown as a culturally rich community in which the arts are a vehicle for sacred expression.

Strategies and Media Plan for Supporting the Vision

The primary communications objective is to change local opinion of cultural tourism in Sagetown. Local stakeholders are dissatisfied with tourisms role in the community thus far, and their role is paramount if this marketing agenda is to promote genuinely positive outcomes for native residents. The overall strategy for supporting the initial objective is to foster a sense of civic pride in Sagetown, clearly and honestly communicating the vision of the community as paramount and showing residents how beneficial community-based tourism can be for all involved. The town is small and socioeconomically challenged, thus using social media or online tools is not conducive to the target population. Changing local opinion will occur in the context of a series of three events during which local artists will exhibit their work and discuss the relationship between the arts and the sacred in Warlpiri culture to local stakeholders. Council representatives will all be invited and encouraged to attend, and culturally relevant celebration practices such as Warlpiri singing and dancing will take place. The events will highlight the new arts cooperative and garner community interest in participating. The events can also be used as a vehicle for signing on families interested in housing tourists, and photographs will be taken for use on Sagetowns newly overhauled website. The primary communication used to reframe tourism for the residents of Sagetown is that visitors to Sagetown will directly support and experience the

P a g e | 10 local, and these promotional events will emphasise how, precisely, stakeholders such as farmers, retailers, artists, and others will benefit from the marketing strategy. Interest will be promoted outside of the community via social networking sites and the creation of partnerships with urban museums in South Australia and Queensland, from which the bulk of the target audience will likely hail. Sagetown will develop a blog for the artists cooperative that will be linked to the sites of urban galleries and museums sensitive to Aboriginal interests. Additionally, local artists working in the cooperative will be aided in developing media packages to be sent to urban galleries, thereby cross-promoting Sagetown through a range of channels. Sagetown will have a Facebook page organised by the local council and pictures of artworks will be regularly posted. The cooperative may intermittently place items on Ebay, linking the auctions with other social media, and offering winners a free visit to or lessen from the cooperative. To alert audiences outside of Australia to the community-based tourism opportunities in Sagetown, efforts will be made to partner with European travel agencies and organisations sensitive to community-based and cultural tourism. The development of Sagetowns image targets all previously identified audiences, with local, national, and international populations affected by the new vision for Sagetown. The image must be carefully constructed and branded, avoiding the potential to exoticize the residents and practices of the Warlpiri people. Photographs will be taken of local artists and farmers working, and several promotional videos will be uploaded on Sagetowns website, blogs, Facebook page, and Youtube. The potential for participatory experience in the art and ways of Sagetown is paramount in the development of the towns image, and all promotional materials will include representations of the intimate, tourist experience. The internet has become the most critical tool in the tourism industry (Moli 2003: 41; Mulholland and Cachon 2004: 179; Wyld 2008: 237), and the second and third communication objectives described herein will primarily rely on the World Wide Web. However, the vision of Sagetown and all integrated marketing communications relies pivotally on highlighting the intimate connection between community and tourist, and photographic imagery will thereby be essential in vividly demonstrating the allure of Sagetown as a mecca of creativity, culture, and community cohesion.


P a g e | 11 Cultural tourism in Australia has been widely condemned for being poorly implemented and exploiting the cultural and lives of Aboriginal people. Community-based tourism, however, diverges from cultural tourism in that the connection between tourist and community is more intimate and the community directly benefits from tourist initiatives. The case of Sagetown could mirror the successes of Birdsville and the Peruvian Infierno if the town can link community interests cohesively to the tourist industry. Using the creative talent of the people of Sagetown as an invaluable resource will ultimately empower residents and allow the local infrastructure to be fortified.

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P a g e | 13 Thorp, Justine. 2007. Tourism in Cairns: Image and Product. Journal of Australian Studies , no. 91: 107-134. Wyld, David C. 2008. A Second Life for Tourism and Economic Development?: a Look at Early Experiments in Using Virtual Worlds to Promote Real World Sites. Competition Forum 6, no. 2: 237-280.


Experience the creativity, compassion, and community of the people of Sagetown! Visit the innovative artists cooperative, stay on a family farm, and forge connections that will last a lifetime. Visit SeeSagetown.Com for more information.