21 March 2022: Yesterday marked two years since the Australian borders closed, and members of the tourism industry, which suffered one of its greatest downturns in decades throughout the pandemic, arguably THE greatest, gathered on Friday to show support for one another and celebrate the return of international travel.
Hosted by Oklahoma Tourism, Brand USA and United Airlines, over 100 travel industry peers – from travel agents to tourism boards, travel writers and tour operators – celebrated the comeback of Australian outbound travel to the USA at The Hard Rock Café, Sydney, as they cheered on five brave and talented colleagues who led a showcase of songs from Oklahoma! the musical on stage for the chance to win a trip to Oklahoma.
The COVID pandemic has shown how resilient and talented the tourism industry community is. Many have had to broaden their skills or turn to other passions and talents to ride the COVID wave. The event embraced the passion and skills across the sector while giving a nod to its American tourism body hosts.
The five singers were travel industry personalities who managed to pivot throughout the pandemic, including Marina Wood from Flight Centre, Lauren Oxenham from Adventure World and Clinton Griffiths from Globus, as well as Out & About with Kids magazine editor, Elisa Elwin and Perth-based travel radio show broadcaster, Steve Collins.
After a crowd vote, Clinton Griffiths from Globus, who wowed the audience with his rendition of The Surrey with the Fringe on Top was announced as the winner of the Oklahoma! talent showcase, with prize flights for 2 with United to Oklahoma, USA.
The event’s celebrity MC, ex-Bachelor Matthew Johnson, described his “pivot” as his Luxury Escapes travel TV series he was due to host in 2020 was postponed, and instead he turned his presenting to radio whilst also becoming a dad. Dancers at the event were also provided by iTravel Sutherland MD, Rosemary Church, as a further display of the generosity and support across the industry.
Kylee Kay, Director of Linkd Tourism, representation firm for Oklahoma Tourism in Australia and New Zealand, commented “This weekend marked 2 years since international borders closed and our industry was disrupted in a way none of us could ever have imagined. But instead of commiserating, this event is all about celebrating. Celebrating this – each other – and the crazy roller-coaster of an experience we’ve all been through. No doubt there’s a few dips and turns still ahead, but so many of us have fought through and are still here, borders are open and travel to the USA is back. Oklahoma Tourism entered the market shortly after the pandemic began and we’ve been building awareness and product through developing training assets and itineraries. Now we’re excited that Australians can explore the roads, attractions and culture across the state and the U.S. as a whole.”
Pre-pandemic, the USA was the number one long-haul destination for Australians and in 2019, 1,319,218 Australians visited the USA, with 82% of these for leisure / a holiday and 26% to visit friends and family.
Australians are known to immerse themselves in a destination when they travel and spent an average 19 nights length of stay in the USA before COVID, allowing for multiple locations and experiences in one trip* – an itinerary that lesser-explored states such as Oklahoma can fit seamlessly within thanks to its central location, position at the heart of Route 66, Cowboy culture, Native American history, BBQ food and wide-open spaces.
For more information on Oklahoma, visit www.linkdtourism.com/traveloklahoma/