A city break for Eid? Try Sydney

A bridge to romance

REPRESENTATIVES of Australia’s tourism bodies have been talking up the country in regional trade circles following the recent Routes 2006 Forum in Dubai.

Ian Cameron, manager, international marketing for New South Wales says he has been trying to further raise the profile of what is perhaps Australia’s best-known gateway, Sydney.
“Certainly, everybody knows Sydney, but the perception is that of a corporate destination and has little to offer beyond the Harbour bridge or the opera house – especially among Gulf nationals, who head to the Gold Coast. Sydney gets 60 per cent of arrivals, but only 33 per cent of nights,” he says when I look incredulous.
Adds Tourism Australia’s distribution development manager for the Gulf countries, Andrew Oldfield, “The GCC is the only market in the world where we really have to sell Sydney. Once the travellers get there, they love it.”
Cameron has been working with travel agents to boost traffic to Sydney, and seeks to improve travellers’ length of stay in the city.
“Sydney has a lot to offer the tourist: the Lunar Park, the zoo, the aquarium, museums, Bondi Beach and lots of shopping, in suburban markets and in malls such as the 100-year old Queen Victoria building,” he says. The city can also be packaged with other destinations in and around Australia. 
Says Oldfield, “We’d like to promote the fact that there’s a depth beyond the icons, that Sydney is a great venue for shopping, dining and family activities.” Which, of course, is exactly what travellers out of the region want.
The duo are working to bring travel distributors to Australia: a Royal Brunei trip with Destinations of the World runs end October, while 50 GCC agents will be invited to Yinala 2007, in Melbourne, with post-event tours in Sydney and other destinations.
One segment the authority is looking at is the educational market. Says Oldfield, “Australia is already well-known for education, but we’d like to expand that, bring in some visitors. For everyone one university student from India, for instance, we get about 20 trips, so there’s potential there.”
As ever, there’s the question of visas, and getting a visa for Australia isn’t particularly easy. Clarifies Oldfield, “Visas may be hard to get, but they’re good for 12 months. Australia does its checking prior to issuing the visa, so there’s no chance a traveller could get pulled out or see their holiday disrupted. We suggest travellers apply three months in advance, but this more a last-minute market. But travellers are becoming more aware and working with the system now.”
Oldfield says the recent introduction of online visa applications has considerably simplified the process, with online applications being turned around in eight to ten days. “99.6 per cent of all applications get visas,” he says.
With Australia so far away from the region, suggested leisure breaks are around 10 days or two weeks. Which, Cameron says, can be taken any time of year as people travel more often within the year.
“To an extent the traffic is seasonal, and we want to break that up, get more people coming in around the year,” he says.
A perfect time to pitch a trip to Australia to your clients, says Oldfield, is the January Eid period: “With a couple of weekends tacked onto either end, travellers could take a 10-day break in Australia. So we’re looking to pump some suggested itineraries into the market to cater to that holiday window.”