QUEEN’S ROAD: Australia is encouraging tourists from Bengaluru to travel to some of its less known destinations.
Last year, 2.2 lakh Indians visited Australia, 19 per cent over the year before, according to Nishant Kashikar, country manager, India and Gulf, Tourism Australia.
“The number of Indians residing in Australia has doubled over the last five years, and education arrivals have seen a 50 per cent increase over the past year. So many Indians travel to visit their families and kids,” he told City Express.
Michael Newcombe, regional general manager, Tourism Australia, spoke about its India Travel Mission, and shared his observations and recommendations. Excerpts:
You say an exponential number of Indians are visiting Australia over the past six months. What are their favourite destinations?
Nishant: Indians love travelling to Sydney — visit the Sydney Opera House, to climb the Harbour Bridge, to go to the Bondi Beach. Cricket lovers make it a point to visit the Sydney Cricket Ground.
They also love visiting the Gold Coast and the theme parks. They love travelling to Melbourne, watch the penguin parade at Phillip Island, drive along the Great Ocean Road. They also love travelling to Adelaide — visit the Adelaide Oval, the Bradman Museum.
These are the four key cities now, but people are also choosing to visit Cairns, which is north of Queensland, and islands in the Great Barrier Reef, such as Hayman Island, Hamilton Island, Lizard Island.
How about people from Bengaluru?
Nishant: This is the third biggest market for us in India, after Delhi and Mumbai. That’s why we have chosen this city for our mission, which gives almost 60 Australian suppliers to visit it and meet with about 110 top Indian travel agents.
Michael: But in terms of travel preference, its the same as the global Indian, around the East Coast of Australia.
Which are the destinations you would recommend?
Michael: We are a federal body, so they would be personal recommendations. But if you look at where the growth is centred, Tasmania seems to be it, not just for Indians, but generally for people travelling to Australia.
But there must be a lot of destinations that are off the beaten track.
Michael: It’s a very big country. Personally, if you ask me, I encourage people to go into the country. If you go and explore rural Australia, you get a different colour. You meet people that are extremely genuine. It may start off a little bit awkward at times, but that’s because they don’t get a lot of visitors. But once they know that you’re there to learn and experience, you’ll be invited for drinks and to people’s houses.
Nishant: One of the greatest advantages of a country like Australia, it’s diversity -- it’s got something for everybody. Young kids would love to see koalas and kangaroos in their natural habitat; teenagers would enjoy the Gold Coast and all the theme parks; young adults would like to participate in all the adventure activities; it has many romantic activities to offer honeymooners; there are spectacular islands in the Great Barrier Reef that retired people, or anyone looking for some quiet time, can go to and relax. Wildlife, luxury, culture, self-drive, all these options are there to choose from.
Michael: Over the next twelve months, we’re looking at leveraging on that diversity through city precincts. Each city is a very multi-cultural place. You could be sitting in a coffee shop and be surrounded by Vietnamese, Chinese and Indians. That’s the similarity between Australia and Bengaluru -- it’s a melting pot of different cultures. It’s a land of immigrants.
Do you see the Singapore-Malaysia circuit or New Zealand as competition?
Michael: In the simplistic form, we’re all competing with each other. But travellers always want a varied experience, so we can’t stop them from going to Singapore or Malaysia. All we can do is encourage people to come to Australia by leveraging the assets that we have. In New Zealand, they leverage the natural beauty very well.
Here too we have natural beauty which is very diverse. What we have done over the past 12 months is have a very heavy focus on food and wine. Research has demonstrated clearly that Australia has the top-rated food and wine in the world.
People go to Singapore for medical tourism or shopping or just a quick break. Because we’re a long-haul destination, we get people who tend to stay for a longer period of time--59 days is the average.
If someone wanted to plan a budget holiday in Australia, how might it pan out?
Nishant: A three-city package that has been launched recently can start as low as Rs 1.2 lakh, including flight, accommodation and sight-seeing. This an entry-level package as you may call it. But we’ve seen that when you travel to Australia, you switch on, you want to participate. So an average tourist contributes close to 4,700 Australian dollars (about Rs 2.24 lakh).
Michael: But we understand that people have different budgets, so a lot of the things don’t cost you money -- going to the beach, for example, or walking through the Blue Mountains. Even accommodation-wise, if you were on an extreme budget, you would camp, but if you wanted to be a little more moderate, you would get a self-contained apartment. We don’t want to be prescriptive of how to travel.
You were talking about people visiting the countryside. How popular is it currently?
Michael: What people typically do is arrive through a gateway, fly to another, see the sights and go back home. But we have been promoting self-drive, so people flying into one of the gateways pick up a car and drive to another gateway and exit. It has been growing in popularity among the Indians, and it’s incredibly popular among people from Singapore and Malaysia.
How do you guard against the exploitation associated with tourism?
Michael: That’s a rather difficult question to answer. I think Australia is a little fortunate in that it’s so big, so you’re not likely to get a big concentration of tourists in one place, unlike Bali, for example.