Healthy interest in Australia from GCC countries

Koalas in Australia

Australia is expecting the final tally of visitor numbers from the GCC region to reach 100,000 by the end of this year. Andrew Oldfield, distribution development manager at Tourism Australia speaks to CHERYL MANDY

How many tourists from the Middle East has Australia handled so far this year, and expected total upon year end?
Visitor arrivals from the region are up 22 per cent for this year - we are anticipating strong growth for the remainder of the year and hope to average a 15 per cent growth for 2008. 

Where in the Middle East do the majority of visitors come from and other countries worldwide?
Australia see’s most of the GCC arrivals come from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, however we have good visitation from almost everywhere in the Middle East – most of our leisure travellers are from the GCC while we have a lot of people from the Levant visiting friends and relatives in Australia. 
2007 arrival figures show a 60/40per cent split between Gulf region and the rest of the Middle East (including Israel and North Africa). Based on the 2006 split of arrivals at 55/ 45 per cent, this is a 5 per cent increase in the Gulf region’s share of Middle East arrivals.

Have airlines departing from the GCC made an impact on visitor numbers?
Yes, of course Emirates airlines have 49 flights per week from Dubai, and they are the major carrier into Australia from the region, we are excited by the EK A380 flying to Sydney in February 2009 and additional flights to Melbourne in the first quarter of 2009. Etihad is also expanding its arrivals with the first flight to Melbourne happening in March 2009. 

What are the targets of Tourism Australia for 2009?
The Tourism Forecasting Committee predicts 100,000 arrivals from the Middle East (including Israel and North Africa) for 2008 – a 15% per cent increase from the previous year.
However, in the long run, arrivals from the Middle East are expected to perform well over the next nine years, with an average annual growth rate of 10 per cent through to the year 2016.

What is Australia’s biggest appeal for ME travellers?
Australia offers a great diversity of attractions and destinations, a friendly environment, layback locals, extraordinary wildlife, fresh, innovative and delicious food and wine, fantastic weather, remarkable beaches and a destination that is safe and secure.

Last year you opened an office in India. Has this increased interest from that part of the world?
There were 109,700 visitors from India year ended 31 July 31, 2008, an increase of 24 per cent relative to previous year. India is the 12th largest inbound market for arrivals with forecasted growth of average 17 per cent.

Any more offices to open in other parts of the world?
Tourism Australia has 17 offices worldwide (including India and the GCC)  - there are no plans on opening any further offices at this stage.