Queensland puts out the red carpet for Arabs


WITH the recent launch of Etihad’s new flight connections to Brisbane, Paul Buggy, Tourism Queensland’s regional director for Korea, India, Middle East & South Africa International, is optimistic that it will further open doors to new experiences for the Middle Eastern travellers.

“We are working closely with Etihad to see how we can develop this relationship even more and obviously also our partners in Dubai including Emirates, who have been a great support to Queensland with their daily services  into Brisbane via Singapore, with rumours that they will go double daily in the not too distant future”, said Buggy.
With varied access from the Gulf not only with the regional carriers but also with Malaysian Airways, Singapore Airways and Cathay, Australia has always been a popular summer destination for the Arabs.
In fact, business has been coming from the Middle East to the Gold Coast over the years with double-digit growth rates over the last five years and the highest-yielding business from anywhere in the world. 
These numbers saw Gold Coast Tourism open its first first representative office in the GCC in Dubai last year, and covering UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar & Oman.
Visitor arrivals from the Middle East have since seen a positive growth of 58.9 per cent in this year, with an increase in visitor nights of 131.8  per cent and an increase in average length of stay by 45.9 per cent from 25.5 nights to 37.2 nights
These results are reflected from the increased marketing activity undertaken in the region with the establishment of Gold Coast Tourism’s Middle East Office in last October.
While the Gold Coast is a very strong destination for Middle Eastern families, Buggy now want to shift focus to educate the Arab travellers of the vast attractions that the state of Queensland has to offer. “From Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef and some of the beautiful islands along the coastland like Cayman Islands, travellers have lots of options to discover and our focus is to build maximum awareness of these destinations,” he said.
“We have seen a large number of repeat visitors to the Gold Coast, so plan to focus on these visitors to explore a little bit further. Just north of Gold Coast is the Australia Zoo, which is the home of the Crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin and is a wonderful family attraction. Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef are two areas world heritage listed destinations and are located nearby and I am sure the Arabs will enjoy the experience of exploring the reefs and the rainforests in that regions. And it’s not just with the Arab families, but these destinations are popular with the Middle East expat community as well. We are now working with all the major tour operators in the UAE like Emirates Holidays and Etihad Holidays as well as the rest of the GCC to help us educate travelers of these places. We also work with the industry in the region, participate in major exhibitions like the Arabian Travel Market and conduct road-shows for the region and training with the agents.”
The Middle East region has been the strongest market for the Australia and while UAE has been the biggest source market, 2006 saw an encouraging growth of visitors from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to Gold Coast and Australia  . “The Arabs usually stay for an average number of 21 nights and in a number of cases even more. They are good spenders who enjoy a lot of shopping. They do multiple visits to the local attractions and they are also visiting other experiences in the region” added Buggy.
With such encouraging numbers from the region, the tourism industry in the Gold Coast particularly has been very responsive to the Arab market. “Our apartments have arrows indicating west. All our major theme parks and the shopping centre, have prayer rooms. Halal food is quiet readily available. We also have a mosque in the Gold Coast. So yes, the industry has been very responsive to the cultural needs of the Arab travellers. Gold Coast council, Gold Coast Tourism and Tourism Queensland have been responsible in setting up a UAE visitor's lounge, since the last three years during the peak summer months. It is located in Surfers Paradise and we have a Arab speaking lady who is available to help the Arabs with any information they need.” He added.
Queensland has a lot to offer for various segments of travelers from adventure experiences to city breaks, lifestyle experiences, honeymoons, food & wine as well as MICE. 

By Shalu Chandran