More GCC residents fly south in the summer

More Arabs are venturing out for newer experiences in Australia

Australia is seeing ever-increasing visitor numbers from the GCC, especially in August winters. Tourism Australia’s distribution development manager for the Gulf, Andrew Oldfield gives TTN the scoop.

What are your major source markets, regionally? What new markets do you want to tap?
The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are our biggest markets, however we do see solid arrivals from the other markets in the GCC – we are expect-ing an increase from Qatar once Qatar Airlines start their services Down Under. Within the wider Middle East we have strong numbers of visiting friends and relations from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan, but we are mainly concentrating on the leisure markets from the GCC.

What are the annual visitor figures to Australia from the Middle East?
The numbers to Australia grow each year, over the last three years we have seen double-digit growth and  hope to see 50,000 visitors from this region in 2007. The most recent numbers show an increase of 21 per cent in the number of Gulf tourists this August holiday, as compared to the same period in 2006.

Has that been helped by better flight connections from the region?
There have always been pretty good connections to Australia, and with the increase in flights from Emirates, Etihad and Qatar, there is an expect-ed increase of more than 80 new flights to Australia over the next four years. This is in addition to existing flights by the Asian carriers.

How do you expect these numbers to change in 2008?
Forecast figures are anticipating a growth of around 15 per cent for 2008. This will be very much achievable now that the Australian visa is two year multi-entry for all GCC nationals.

What is being done to promote places like Queensland or Perth to regional travellers?
Our major activity in the region is through the travel trade and we try and educate them about Australia’s other remarkable destinations. We do this through our online training programme ‘Aussie Specialist’ and through our annual training and family event, Yinala. As the Arab traveller matures and keeps returning to Australia, they look for different experiences, they are realizing that there is more to see and enjoy than the Gold Coast. In fact, I have heard of a number of Arab families travelling to Perth this last summer, for its green spaces and natural beauty.

Are hotels and travel suppliers in Australia well-versed with the needs of Arab/ Middle Eastern guests?
Yes indeed. In fact Australia has a very large Muslim population and so things like mosques, halal food, etc are part of the norm. You will also find many theme parks and attractions have mosques in easy reach.

Finally, what are this year’s tourism highlights? 
Two-year, multiple-entry, label-free visas for all GCC nationals – it has made getting to Australia that much easier.