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4 Sep, 2006

Easier Visas Sought to Spur Indian Travel To Australia

Fast-growing visitor arrivals from India are proving a saving grace for the Australian travel & tourism industry, prompting efforts to stoke the growth further by speeding up visa processing times.

In the first half of 2006, Indian visitor arrivals to Australia touched 44,100, up 33% over the first half of 2005. India was the fastest growing market, albeit off a small base. Indian arrivals for the 12-month period ending June 2006 totalled 78,900.

Although those figures are still well behind arrivals from China, which totalled 150,300 in the first half of 2006 and 292,300 for the year ended 2006, up respectively 5% and 7%, it clearly shows the growth potential.

Arrivals from India and China are now helping to prop up Australian tourism which experienced an overall decline of 1% in the first half of this year from 2.6 million in to 2.59 million.

A major reason has been significant decline in arrivals from Northeast and Southeast Asia.

Arrivals from Malaysia were down 16% and Singapore down 11%. Arrivals from Thailand, too, were down 5% to 39,000 in the first half of 2006.

Other significant drops were experienced from formerly high flying markets like Japan (-3%), Taiwan (-15%), Hong Kong (-1%) and Korea (-6%).

Ms Maggie White, Tourism Australia’s Regional Director for South, South East Asia and the Middle East, said that if Indian growth trend continues for the second half, arrivals from India will have doubled in only three years.

These declines have made it even more important to find ways to offset it by focussing on the Indian market. Expediting visa access is one way.

Trial runs are being undertaken with 10 travel agents each in New Delhi and Mumbai that will allow them to issue label-free visas after inputting the information via the Internet.

Turnaround time is expected to be barely a few hours, but some onus of responsibility will be placed on the agents to ensure that they issue these visas only to regular clients whom they are familiar with, in order to safeguard against illegal immigrants and over-stayers.

One of the key issues is aviation. At the moment there are only three direct flights a week between India and Australia by Qantas operating to Mumbai.

This means that most of the traffic is being carried to Australia by Southeast Asian airlines like Singapore Airlines, Tourism Australia’s preferred partner airline, Thai Airways and Malaysia Airlines.

Mrs White said that Tourism Australia had to work largely with Singapore Airlines, a global partner, but that did not mean it could not do more with Thai Airways on specific campaigns and marketing programmes.

Ms White attended THAI’s marketing meeting in Pattaya last month to explore opportunities.

A code share agreement has also been signed with the Indian private carrier, Jet Air to carry passengers from Indian points to Singapore and then link them through to Australia via Qantas flights.

Miss White was in Bangkok last week to supervise the OzTalk Southeast Asia trade show, the first time it has been held in Thailand after previous events in Singapore and Malaysia.

It was attended by 56 sellers from all over Australia and 190 invited buyers from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

A profile of the Indian visitor arrivals to Australia shows an interesting breakdown:

<> Total visitor arrivals from India increased by 22% in 2005. Growth in visitor arrivals of 17% to 79,495 visitors is forecast in 2006 by the Tourism Forecasting Committee.

<> In 2005, 20,760 visitors came for a holiday, 13,279 came to visit friends and relatives, 17,287 on business, 4,345 for employment, 6,280 for education and 5,975 for other purposes.

<> 48% or 29,979 of all visitors from India in 2005 were repeat visitors. This is lower than the average of 59% across all markets

<> The annual average growth rate for visitors from India over the decade from 1996 to 2005 was 15%.

<> Arrivals from India are expected to chalk up an average annual growth rate of 15.6% through to the year 2015.

<> India is Australia’s 16th largest source market in terms of total expenditure. In 2005 Indian visitors spent a total of $326 million on trips to Australia, with an average expenditure of $5,164 per trip.

<> They had a Total Inbound Economic Value (TIEV) of AUD$280 million during 2005, up 54% over 2004. That accounted for 2% of all TIEV.

<> 60% of TIEV came from Indians on their first trip to Australia totalling AUD$168 million whilst repeat visitors spent AUD$113 million.

<> Average TIEV for visitors from India in 2005 was AUD$4,448.

<> The average length of stay was 46 nights, much higher than the average of 27 nights for all visitors. They accounted for 2% of all international visitor nights in Australia in 2005.

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