How do you perceive the growth of the Indian market in the last decade for Tourism Australia?
Australia has always been an aspirational brand and features prominently in the wish list of desirable destinations to visit for travellers from India. The past decade has seen a steady rise in visitor arrivals from India to Australia. Starting from a low base of 41,000 in 2000, Indian arrivals have grown at a compound annual growth rate of 12.3 per cent to reach 148,200 visitors in 2011. India is currently the 11th largest inbound market for arrivals.
It has been a satisfying experience watching the visitor arrivals graph rise. There is a sense of gratification when I think back about the kind of work on the trade and media front that we have done in this market. It has been a crucial decade not just statistically but also from the viewpoint of building and strengthening our foundations in this large and complex market.
In an earlier interaction you had told me about the unstinting support that Tourism Australia had received from many Indian travel agents during a very tough time. Your reflection on that.
I have spent more than a decade interacting with travel agents from India and it has been an enjoyable and enriching journey. Starting out at a time when outbound travel was still in its nascent stage, it has been a great learning experience gaining insights from veterans of the Indian travel industry and working together towards building preference for travel to Australia. Through the years, we have worked jointly with the travel agents using several mediums including training programmes, cooperative advertising and trade events to help them develop itineraries and sell Australia better to their customers. We were amongst the first NTOs to have started a specialised training programme for the trade – the Aussie Specialist Programme – that has today grown enormously enrolling over 2800 agents. There have also been several trade events including the India Travel Mission (ITM), Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE), India Mega Famil and Workshop (IMFW) that we have organised for the Indian travel agents and that has enabled us to create long lasting synergies between Australian and Indian travel trade representatives and bring Australia amongst the top choice of outbound travel destinations.
Tourism Australia has always enjoyed the faith and goodwill of the Indian travel fraternity and this has been a great reassurance for us during some of our challenging times as well. Our close associates among the trade and media have made an immense contribution towards building brand Australia in India. During the many years that I have spent working in this market, in addition to great business supporters, I have also been fortunate to make some great friends for life and am thankful to all my associates for making this journey a memorable and inspiring one.
How has South/ South East Asia emerged as a source market for Tourism Australia?
Asia is Australia’s main source of international arrivals, representing 42 per cent of total arrivals in the 12 months to March 2012 and 43 per cent for the first quarter of 2012. Strong growth from Asia is expected to be particularly important to the performance of international arrivals in the short and longer term. In the first quarter of 2012, key source markets in Asia continue to drive overall arrivals to Australia including China, India and Indonesia. According to the Tourism Forecasting Committee (TFC), inbound arrivals from Asia are expected to increase four per cent to 2.5 million in 2011/12 and by a further 5.6 per cent to 2.6 million in 2012/13. By 2020/21, Asia’s share of inbound arrivals is expected to increase to 45 per cent (Source TFC, 2012 Issue 1).
What are your growth expectations from India?
India is a market of strong future potential for Australian tourism given this nation’s rapid rise in outbound travel. India is currently Australia’s 10th most valuable inbound tourism market, with 148,000 visitors spending AU$ 867 million in 2011. Tourism Australia recently unveiled an India 2020 plan – a new strategy aimed at tapping into the future tourism potential of India by identifying the main opportunities and setting out the approach required to build Australia’s appeal and to win future market share. This plan predicts arrivals up to 320,000 visitors and up to AU$ 2.3 billion in spends. Average growth to 2020 is forecasted at 8.6 per cent.
Any interesting trend/ change in travel profile that you have witnessed in the Indian market?
Outbound travel is evolving and Indian travellers are being seen as more willing to experiment and indulge in newer experiences. We see an interest in moving beyond the typical and a desire to soak up the local culture. Whilst Indian travellers are extremely value-conscious, they do not mind splurging on travel experiences that are of top quality, unique and have a “bragability” factor.
What will you miss most about South East Asia/ India following your return to Melbourne?
It has been an absolute privilege to work across the region and interact with so many diverse cultures and make friends. I will miss the warmth and hospitality of the people plus the great cuisine of the different countries. However I will take back many great memories acquired over the years.