Australia wants Indian tourists


NEW DELHI, India – Earlier this year, Tourism Australia starting advertising in India using Indians living or visiting Australia. This was their way to counter the negative perception about the destination after the attacks on Indian students in Melbourne in 2009.

India-born chef Vikrant Kapoor, who runs an Indian restaurant by the name Zaaffran in Sydney’s Darling Harbour area is one of the faces of Tourism Australia campaign and his advocacy seems to have worked. Even as the number of visitors to the country in the first nine months of 2011 declined marginally, arrivals from India in that period went up by 6% compared to that in 2010.

Last year, 1,38,700 Indians visited the country and the country’s Tourism Forecasting Council predicts Indian visitors will total 1,53,000 this year. The target for Tourism Australia is to take this number up to 4,00,000 by 2020, said Andrew McEvoy, managing director of Tourism Australia, at a meeting in Sydney.

“There is a growing middle class in India which we are trying to tap. We are looking at both the main cities and also tier-II cities in India for growth,” he said. The numbers are already reaching a point where a direct non-stop flight will be needed. “We are talking to Air India, Jet and also Kingfisher and a direct non-stop flight should be on in the next 12-18 months,” he says.

Currently, there are no non-stop flights between the two countries. Qantas today flies three times a week from Mumbai to Australia via Singapore but the Mumbai to Singapore leg is on a code share with another airline. The lack of a nonstop flight and the time taken for a onestop flight have been a deterrent for travel to Australia from India.

But even with these constraints, India is becoming an increasingly important source of tourists for Australia, both in terms of numbers and the amount of money spend. Indians are the ninth largest spenders in the country with an average spend of $6,585 per person, accounting for 3% of all international expenditure.

While the number of Indians travelling to Australia is still much lower compared to South East Asian destinations like Singapore which gets close to 8,00,000 Indians a year, McEvoy is not overly concerned. “Australia is definitely not for everyone. We are looking at a high yielding audience,” he said.

McEvoy and his team in India is trying to get Indians to spend more on their holidays in Australia as well as the length of stay. Currently, the average length of stay by Indians is 68 nights, which is much above the global average of 35 nights for the country.

This is predominantly because of the number of parents of students studying in Australia visiting for longer stays.