In his role as a brand custodian of Tourism Australia for over a decade, Nishant Kashikar, Country Manager- India & Gulf, Tourism Australia, has been responsible for driving visitation and tourist spend by raising Australia’s awareness and appeal in India. Under his leadership, arrivals from India to Australia have more than tripled in the last decade to reach 400,000 and he has been instrumental in strengthening the people-to-people links between the two countries. TTJ interacts with Nishant to know more about the current travel scenario in Australia.
Q. Australia is one of the world’s leading tourist destinations. Can you tell us the importance of the tourism sector in its contribution to the Australian economy?
Tourism is a sector that has long been a significant contributor to the Australian economy and gross domestic product (GDP), serving as a revenue generator and driver of employment and job growth pre COVID-19. During the year 2019, both domestic and international tourists recorded spend of more than A$122 billion and contributed A$61 billion to Australia’s GDP. Australia also recorded 9.3 million international visitor arrivals at an increase of 3 per cent compared to the previous year. In total, tourism supported around one million jobs in 2019. This is equivalent to one out of every 12 jobs in Australia.
Interestingly, while Australia ranks 42nd in terms of total tourist arrivals, it is 10th globally, in terms of total tourism receipts and ranks at the top of the list for daily spend per visitor. As such, Australia is a high-yield destination, which records one of the highest per tourist spend in the world, with the average international tourist spend being a little over AU$ 5,200 per person.
Q. According to you, what are the important parameters being considered by the Australian Govt for reopening its tourism to other countries?
The reopening of Australian borders for international tourism will be monitored through the introduction of a four-phase National Plan.
Earlier in July 2021, the Australian Government released a four-phase National Plan as a systematic means to safely transition Australia’s National COVID-19 Response, with each new phase triggered once certain vaccination thresholds are achieved nationally. In response to the plan, Australia is on track to becoming a highly vaccinated nation that will not only support the ability to address and curb instances of infection but will also pave the way for travel to resume.
Australia has now fully vaccinated around 80 per cent of the population and while large parts of the country have started moving from Phase B to Phase C, under which international travel is poised to open to vaccinated Australian citizens, permanent residents and their parents.
As of November, the government has relaxed border restrictions for parents of adult Australian citizens and permanent residents. Fully vaccinated citizens from New Zealand and Singapore are also permitted to enter certain states within the country, without the need to quarantine.
Q. Australia is popular with Indians. What is the current scenario which makes you hopeful about the resumption of tourism from India to Australia?
The India market has always been and remains one of Australia’s most important and promising markets. The below key developments and recent announcements have been well-received by the Indian travel industry, who are confident that the latent demand will translate into actual visitation once we reach the freedom of movement stage for Indian tourists.
- Parents of Australian citizens and permanent residents from India can now travel to Australia, after seeking an exemption and obtaining a visa from Home Affairs
- The recognition of India manufactured vaccines, Covishield and more recently, Covaxin by the Australian government
- The announcement around the commencement of Qantas flights from Delhi to Sydney wef 6 December 2021 and the resumption of Air India flights on the same route from 15 November 2021
- Application Charge (VAC) Free Applications: If Indian travellers held a Visitor visa that expired, or will expire, between 20 March 2020 and 31 December 2021, they are eligible for a future Visitor visa at no cost under VAC waiver provisions
Furthermore, we believe and are hopeful that the gradual reopening of borders for New Zealand and Singaporean citizens will provide a framework for a further easing of travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers from across the world as soon as it is safe to do so.
Q. What kind of tourist target are you looking at from India to Australia in the new year 2022?
Since India is expected to be among the fastest growing economies in the world, with a rising and aspirational middle-class population and through the gradual strengthening of the Australia-India bilateral relationship, India could potentially be a market in the league of 1 million visitor arrivals for Australia, over the next decade.
Q. Which are the segments of tourism you would be banking on now and targeting from the India market?
Given the huge pent-up demand for travel, we believe that all major segments will contribute to the recovery of the tourism sector. With 750,000 people of Indian origin currently residing in Australia, the visiting friends and family segment will be among the most active segment to travel to Australia, to meet their loved ones. Furthermore, since Australia will host the ICC T20 Men’s World Cup in 2022, we will see a resurgence of the Business Events (MICE) segment.
With over 10 million weddings taking place every year in India and pandemic induced travel restrictions, newly married couples have had to defer their honeymoons and as Australia has always been a preferred honeymoon destination, we believe that those couples who will embark on their first trip when the borders reopen will definitely have Australia in their consideration set. Given the rise and increase of disposable income, we also believe that the young explorers or millennials will contribute greatly and travel when the borders reopen.
Q. Tourism Australia has recently relaunched the Aussie Specialist Program. How has the response been so far from the Indian travel partners?
To connect and engage with our Indian trade partners, Tourism Australia introduced virtual editions of the Aussie Specialist Program, Australia 365 On-Demand and the inaugural Australia Global Summit.
The Aussie Specialist Program has received an overwhelming response during the pandemic and we have received over 1,400 new registrations since March 2020. Our most recent figures are indicative that we have registered over 26,000 qualified Aussie Specialists across the world, and over 3,600 of them are qualified Aussie Specialists from India.
The Program has been a vital tool and means of connection for over three decades, allowing us to upskill and provide personalized first-hand training to our agents and thus, equipping them with the knowledge and material needed to help elevate Australia as a top-tier destination to mainstream and niche markets. We have also introduced a new offering alongside the re-launch of the Aussie Specialist Program, Australia 365 On-Demand, a global and virtual trade hub that allows registered buyers to connect with over 20,000 suppliers. This platform also provides Aussie Specialists with the means to train, connect and stay updated all year round.
Q. What is new in Australia, attractions and destination wise? Recommend us an itinerary for a 3-week vacation in Australia?
What makes Australia a truly unique destination is the variety and quality of experiences and local culture, there is something for everyone, every age group and every interest. An ideal 3-week vacation itinerary should include star attractions across all states and territories, namely:
New South Wales: Start your day with a city tour of Sydney and its quaint suburbs. You can then enjoy the sun setting over the city by booking a climb on the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. You may spend a day at the famous Bondi or Manly Beach or take a tour to visit the vineyards at Hunter Valley.
Queensland: No trip to Queensland is complete without visiting the Great Barrier Reef and the oldest rainforest in the world, the Daintree Rainforest. If you are looking for an adrenalin rush and a fun family day, visit the adventure capital of Australia. Cairns for a day of white-water rafting, horseback riding, skydiving or even bungee jumping.
Victoria: Experience Melbourne’s renowned coffee culture as you stroll down the city’s famously colorful AC/DC Lane or Hosier Lane, home of Australia’s best street art. And if you are a cricket enthusiast, the revered Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is a must visit. You can also take a day trip to the scenic Phillip Island for a front-row seat to witness the incredible Penguin Parade.
South Australia: Book a tour of the picturesque Adelaide Oval and complete your experience with a stay at the stadium’s state-of-the-art Oval Hotel, where you can watch a match from the comfort of your room. Pencil in a trip to Kangaroo Island for an opportunity to interact with Australia’s famed wilderness and unique wildlife.
Northern Territory: Journey to the spiritual capital of Australia for an immersive cultural experience at the largest sandstone monolith in the world, Uluru, which is also home to an abundance of ancient and scenic walking tracks. At sunset, enjoy the breath-taking views of the critically acclaimed ‘Field of Light’ installation by celebrated artist, Bruce Munro.
Tasmania: When on the island of Tasmania, make your way to the pristine Wineglass Bay beach located on the Freycinet Peninsula, which is also home to Saffire Freycinet, a luxury coastal sanctuary in the Luxury Lodges of Australia portfolio. Reserve a suite that looks over the magnificent Hazards Mountains as you enjoy multi-course degustation menus with local wines.
Australian Capital Territory: Watch the Australian government in action at the historic Parliament House in Canberra and while in the capital, book a stay at the Jamala Wildlife Lodge where you can live amongst lions, tigers, cheetahs as well as friendly giraffes and deer in a private glass enclosure.
Western Australia: When in Perth, visit the city’s crowning jewels, the WACA and Optus Stadium for a behind-the-scenes tour, a bucket-list experience for every cricket fan. Meet the happiest animal in the world and click a selfie with the adorable quokka on Rottnest Island, just offshore from Perth.