With connections to Australia from the Gulf set to increase 100 per cent, the GCC is well poised to replace Asia on the traditional ‘kangaroo route’ – and the tourism industry both here and ‘Down Under’ are set to benefit.
”The total number of flights will be 126 by 2011. This is driven both by tourist demands as well as by government marketing initiatives to promote Australia, coupled with fewer flights to Europe,” said Tourism Australia chairman, Tim Fischer, told TTN. He was in Dubai prior to the Arabian Travel Market (ATM).
The Australian federal government has recently announced that Emirates Airline has been given the go-ahead to boost its services between Dubai and Australia to 84 flights per week by 2011, adding an additional 35 weekly flights. Newcomer Etihad Airways was given authorization for an additional 28 flights per week, also to be introduced by 2011, in addition to the seven they currently are allocated. These new flights will be destined for Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth, to be determined. Qatar Airways is also to launch its Melbourne-bound flight imminently, probably via Bangkok, and they too have been given approval for an additional daily route to another Australian city by 2008.
This opens up routes, of course, for Australian carriers into the GCC, making the numbers indeed very big.
Another trend that will benefit the market is that most travellers would look favourably on alternative routes from Australia, said Fischer. “They have done Singapore to Europe, they have done Bangkok to Europe, Hong Kong to Europe, now they want to try Dubai or Abu Dhabi as stopovers,” he said.
Tourism Australia, of course, also hopes to bring in more GCC nationals – and is rolling out a campaign to target this market. With GCC citizens now eligible for multiple-entry ‘stamp free’ online visas valid for two years (through immi.gov.au), visitor numbers to Australia look set to increase. “The GCC is committed to destination Australia,” said Andrew Oldfield, Tourism Australia’s Dubai-based distribution development manager, GCC. “Visitor numbers across the GCC were up eight percent in 2006 over figures from 2005 and we expect figures to keep on rising in even higher leaps and bounds.”
The total number of GCC visitors to Australia during 2006 was 42,731. Oldfield said this year’s figures are likely to be even higher.
“Australia is looking more attractive than ever to the Gulf traveller due to the world situation, the choice and ease of travel to the continent and the general welcoming warmth of the Australian people combined with the numerous, varied and unparalleled attractions,” Fischer explained.
Asked about how comfortable Muslim visitors will feel in Australia, he said the continent has had an Islamic population for centuries. “Mark Twain, when he went to Adelaide, commented on the surprisingly large number of Muslims he met in 1895. We need to work harder but we are getting a better of Islam and are able to understand the Islamic tourists successfully as I remind fellow Australians,” Fischer said. “We want to be able to give the confidence to Islamic, Buddhists, Jewish and Christian that we are a very tolerant people and can handle special dietary needs and now have a Halal restaurant guide amongst other steps.”
by Keith J Fernandez
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