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Facebook: the new face of Australian tourism?

by Tom 25/07/2008 15:03:00

I noticed an article posted on our website about how the Australian Tourism Board is taking a whole new direction into cyberspace so it can make some friends on Facebook.

For a bit of background info, Facebook is a social networking website which facilitates social communication around the world.  Mostly young people sign up to the site to chat with friends, share videos, store photos, send emails, and maintain contact with people they haven’t seen for years.  Users can only get Facebook friends by searching for people, and only if both parties accept the "friend request".  Only friends are then able to access their personal profiles. 

So it struck me as a curious direction for Tourism Australia to head in, considering not many people (or so I thought) would waste their time becoming "friends" with what is essentially an aging board of directors employed to market Australia to the world.

But when I logged onto Facebook, sure enough, Tourism Australia had nabbed itself over 10,000 friends.  A few weeks later, that number had more than doubled, reaching a whopping 24,175 "fans".  Most people don’t even make it past a couple of hundred! (I certainly haven't at any rate.)

Looking at the site I can understand why. Tourists are provided with everything and anything there is to know about travelling Australia, and are given the opportunity to put their own personal experiences up for the world to see.  There’s space for fan videos, photos, and reviews.  People can post comments on the wall, ask questions, or check out upcoming events around Australia. 

The Discussion Board (which is maintained by Tourism Australia) gives travellers helpful hints, for example about the transport system, or sample itineraries, like a trip out to Broken Hill in New South Wales.

It’s brilliant, but it doesn't stop there.  MySpace, a similar social networking site, is being used by the board to promote the Australia working holiday concept to young people around the world.  This site focuses more on visuals though, by using videos of testimonials from young travellers living and working in the UK to entice more people to take the plunge for some real Australian adventure.

It's a wonderful thing to see that travelling the world is becoming a lot easier and a lot more exciting for young people these days, especially now that it can be shared with anyone around the world.  The Australia Facebook page was initially designed to be an information source for the tens of thousands of international visitors in Sydney during the World Youth Day this month.  But, now that event has passed, the site is still clocking up the friend-count and sporting new posts, reviews, photos and videos from people all around the world, which suggests to me that Tourism Australia and tourists around the world are going to be life-long friends.

- Tom Blackett is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Flying Kiwis, breathe a sigh of relief

by Andy 17/07/2008 17:07:00

If Amanda and her team were excited about the new changes to the Australian working holiday visa last week, then it is the New Zealand Visa Bureau's turn to breathe a big sigh of relief.  After many months of consultation, the UK Government has finally decided to continue running the New Zealand ancestry visa program and allow free access for Kiwis for up to six months.  Phew!

The British Home Office are having a big clean-up of their immigration system, and have been looking at the policies of other countries, mainly Australia, to base their new "simplified" structure on.  Although they're more interested in a new "Path to Citizenship", where migrants have to "earn" their right to become a UK citizen, they were also looking to restrict access to the UK for Commonwealth citizens.

Here in the New Zealand Visa Bureau, we all feared the Home Office would listen to suggestions to restrict the six month visa-free access to three months, or cancel rights to get a five year UK ancestry visa.   Thousands of New Zealanders live, work, and play in London already - city life just wouldn't be the same without the Kiwi contingent! 

Luckily for New Zealanders, the doors have stayed open.  Those who have grandparents born in the UK can still apply for a five-year working and residency visa, and the six month visa-free access is out there for the taking. 

Apparently, PM Helen Clark has been batting for New Zealand so that young Kiwis can keep flying to the UK.  In a press release, she told the country she understands how important it is for young people to have an OE in the UK, and went directly to Gordon Brown to ask him to reconsider.  

And so she should.  The New Zealand Immigration policy has been more than welcoming to UK citizens.  UK travellers also have six month visa-free access to New Zealand, and Brits on a working holiday visa are entitled to 23 months in NZ (everybody else in the working holiday program only get 12 months!). 

Imagine having that much time to see all the breathtaking sights New Zealand has to offer, or watch the adrenaline-pumping activities in the country's adventure capital Queenstown change to match the season.  You could even catch a full live season of the Super 14s Rugby Union competition, or just chill out in a batch for six months on the Coromandel. 

It's no wonder Britons make up the second largest source of tourism for the Land of the Long White Cloud – I think they're getting a pretty good deal!

Thanks to the announcements this week from Ms Clark, it gives me great pleasure to tell our NZ and UK clients they can still go on their well-deserved holiday to the other end of the world, just as their brothers, sisters, mates, parents (even myself) have done before them.  It just wouldn't be fair if the fun stopped here!

- Andy Harwood is the CEO of the Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

A Second Crack at a Working Holiday Visa

by Giles 08/07/2008 17:29:00

I'm very, very excited about a piece of news that we posted the other day: working holiday visa holders can apply for a second working holiday visa if they work in construction.  It's about time!

We find that most of our clients want to go for a second round in Australia. Who wouldn't?  It's warm, sunny, and huge! It's hard to cram the entire country into a one year visa, especially when you want to earn a few bucks while you travel.  One of the most common questions we're asked is "can I apply for another working holiday visa?" I always hate saying no. Thanks to the new announcement from DIAC I won't have to say no so often.

A few years ago, DIAC caved into pressure from travellers and agricultural companies who needed workers.  They allowed anybody who worked for at least three months as a "seasonal worker" in "regional Australia" to apply for a second working holiday visa once their first one expired.  (Translated out of government-ese, that means to get another working holiday visa, people needed to work on a farm way out in the middle of nowhere.)  Up until now, people who didn't really want to bend bananas in the sun for a few months have been out of luck.

I'm happy to see that construction and building workers are getting in on the act.  The construction industry in Australia is so desperate for workers, they successfully lobbied the government to get the same rights as the agricultural sector. Working Holiday Visa holders who work for three months in construction or building can now apply for another Working Holiday once their first visa expires.

As great as it is (and it really is great for a lot of our clients) I want the program to go even further. Construction and agriculture aren't the only industries that need young workers.  Working holiday makers make up a pretty hefty chunk of the temporary work force in Australia - and I don't just mean bar staff!  Child-care workers, nurses and other skilled pros often call us to head down under on a Working Holiday Visa.

I can't wait for the day when they can apply for another chance to explore Australia.

- Amanda Gripske is a Working Holiday Visa Manager with the Australian Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Alberta Needs Brits

by Andy 01/07/2008 14:46:00

Canadian FlagThe Alberta Minister of Employment and Immigration Hector Goudreau is on a mission this week to encourage thousands of UK would-be migrants to move to Alberta, Canada.  The Minister has given himself a quota of 50,000 immigrants for this year alone, and has headed straight to the UK to find them.  I think it's easy to see why.

Alberta, a province in Western Canada, is a commercial hub and proudly sustaining a steadily growing economy.  But the local population can't keep up with demand for workers, so the Minister has spearheaded a campaign to inform UK citizens how to fast-track the application process for Canadian visas so that local industries are no longer in high demand for skilled workers.  The professions at the top of the demand list include GPs, teachers, nurses, electricians, carpenters, engineers, construction workers, management consultants, cardiac specialists and diabetic specialists, although many other skilled positions are waiting to be filled.

We posted a news story on our website yesterday about the exodus of "boomerang migrants" (Australian ex-pats returning home). The thousands of Brits following them shows exactly why Mr Goudreau is targeting migrants from the UK.  The cost of living has risen again over the past four months, making the UK among the most expensive places to live in the world.  Staple food prices have risen by almost 60 per cent and fuel prices have risen by 22 per cent.  The Pound is weakening against the Australian dollar and the Canadian dollar, and more people from the UK are now deciding to make the move to better lifestyles and climates.

Canadian Immigration isn't always easy, though.  At the moment, it can take up to two years for a skilled visa application to be approved for skilled migration to Canada from the UK.  We always recommend that clients attempt to find a job offer before applying so that they can apply for a fast-tracked skilled visa.

I've often felt that there's a disconnect between the needs of employers in Canada, who need employees now; and the Canadian immigration system; which can be a slow and frustrating experience for some visa applicants.

However, this week Mr Goudreau has been putting Alberta's best foot forward to UK nationals.  He boasts of its comparatively lower cost of living, higher standard of living, matched and sometimes higher salaries in all professions, superior public services and educational services, lower business taxes than most countries, no provincial sales tax on goods, and its breathtaking scenery. 

The interest that a news story like this generates is tremendous.  I'm always happily surprised by the number of Brits who are ready to make the jump across the ocean in search of a better life.  Even the media here in the UK is getting in on the act with the BBC and GMTV calling to ask questions about Canadian immigration.  Mr Goudreau's arrival has caused quite a stir.

The UK government will have to work hard to entice overseas workers to fill their increasing skills shortages, while all the Canadian Government has to do is show Brits where to sign on the dotted line.

- Andy Harwood is the CEO of the Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.