ATHRA Marketing Working Party Update

ATHRA Marketing Working Party Update 

This is the first update of the Marketing Working Party  and to an extent part introduction part information.

What is the Marketing Working Party? 

In the same way that the training and safety working parties are aiming to support heritage railways to achieve optimum rail safety for the good of all operators, the marketing working party is here to try to provide a united image of rail heritage to the tourism world.

Domestic travel has very much been the staple diet of most heritage railways in this country and save for a few of the larger sudo commercial operators marketing has tended to be an after thought, and based very locally.

While in and of it’s self this is fine, from a perspective of State and Federal tourism funding/support it leaves not only operators but the sector on the whole very much off radar. Our hope is to provide the heritage railways of this Nation with the best advice and tools so that as a united front we can become bigger players and see the passenger numbers collectively the sector needs to survive.

The people in the marketing working party have travelled on most heritage railways in the country and know the potential that all the groups offer to residents of this country and the a visitors it.

Our aim is not to change your marketing strategy, nor is it to say “this is the way its going to be”, its to assist groups that want it to access a potentially untapped market of passengers. Remember there is never a one size fits all solution and it is the unique stories of each operator and their assets that are going to see all of us do well.

Template/guide Rate and fact sheet 

Team members have been working with a Melbourne based Tourism Business Development Company to work through best ways of engaging bus and travel agents to heritage railways. A key point has been the use of Rate & Fact Sheets.

These Rate & Fact Sheets are not for promotion to public directly but to provide guidance to Travel agent’s and coach operators as to what is being offered by T&H Railways to their clients. It is your railways way to have them have all the details they need on hand at a glance.

These are not a single document but are a “parent” and “children (4-7 individual documents)” for the various products offered:

  • normal operations (P)
  • educational operations (c)
  • grey nomad operations (c)
  • premium operations (c)
  • walking group tours (c)
  • international (c)
  • Non operational opening days (c)

The aim has been to create a template/guide Rate and fact sheet reformatted for T&H Rail’s unique form of operation by March at the latest. This template will require data input of data and basic formatting to suit the railway using it but it is an invaluable one stop tool for the sector. It also means that it can be presented by the ATHRA team at ATEC members during tourism conferences.


ATHRA has agreed to try a one year ATEC membership to improve the visibility of the sector on the world stage. The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) is the peak industry body representing Australia’s $45 billion tourism export sector. As an organisation, their views are informed by the broadest cross-section of the Australian tourism industry. ATEC represents more than 1000 members across Australia including large national and multinational companies as well as small-and medium-sized enterprises, many of whom are based in regional and remote parts of Australia.

Our hope is to begin inviting ATEC members to heritage railways nationally in order to show the scope of operators available and then, with their help and support, bring as many rail heritage operators as possible on to the international tourist stage in time for the reopening of international boarders.

General Tourism Sector Observations  

From a few meetings with industry and Government both in Queensland and Victoria a few key points have been found in the last 12 months.

There has been (with the easing or restrictions) a Traffic Boom in Local tourist sector post lock down. Current trend is a 200% increase on travel numbers in most ventures as local spend rate is up. Sales in kiosks and souvenir shops are increasing and “value add” options are being

However it is likely that this Boom will bust around mid to late 2022. At this point the general consensus appears to be that Japan and NZ will be likely reciprocating international tour options. China and Europe are not likely to be back on the market for some time.

Trip advisor usage appears to be slowing, expectation is that Google review may take over as industry leader and become the primary point of data collection by state tourism departments.

Shorter trips are proving to be big sellers in other sectors due to “perceived reduced risk” of covid exposure. This will mainly effect mainline operators but shorter with higher yield may offer best results provided onboard cleaning is maintained.

That’s all for now.

Rob Shearer and the ATHRA Marketing Working Group

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