Sydney, April 19 (IANS) Buoyed by the number of Indian tourists flocking to Australia, an influential tourism promotional body has asked the Australian government to invest $1 billion to attract more visitors from India and other Asian countries in the next decade.
Besides India, the Tourism and Transport Forum (TTF) has also urged the federal government to focus on Australia's top visitor resource country China and other Asian countries.
"The burgeoning middle class in Asia will continue to provide potential visitors and their increasing buying power makes them a key market for Australian goods and services, including food and wine, education, health and technology," says the forum's 'Australia in the Asian Century' report.
According to a TTF projection, the Asian middle class could rise from 500 million people in 2009 to 3.2 billion in 2030.
The TTF and other tourism promotion bodies down under have reasons to focus on China, India and other Asian countries as there has been an increase of 40 percent in the number of Asian visitors compared to 1999. The growth in export earnings from non-Asian source markets, on the other hand, went up by only two percent over the same period.
In the last three years, India has jumped from the 11th position to seventh as the source country of visitors to Australia. The increase looks even more impressive if analysed on percentage basis (315 percent).
While expressing optimism about the Asian market, the TTF has also cautioned Australian government not to be complacent as competitors like the US and Britain, are making aggressive inroads into Australia's neighbourhood.
"It is critical that we don't lose the competitive advantage of our proximity to Asia through complacency," the TTF submitted.
TTF Chief Executive John Lee has expressed satisfaction that the number of visitors landing in Australia has stabilised.
"Today's figures show that Australia is not reliant on one country for international visitors, with arrivals from New Zealand up 7.9 percent and Japan up 6.0 percent," John Lee said after statistics on Australian tourism came out. Both traditional markets for Australian tourism had suffered massive calamities in the recent past.
New Zealand's Christchurch was rocked by a massive earthquake in February last year while Japan suffered the devastating impact of a huge tsunami that was triggered by a temblor in March last year.
"We hope this is a sign of things to come, as both countries continue to recover from last year's devastating natural disasters, while February also saw growth in arrivals from Korea (9.3 percent), India (9.0 percent) and Italy (23.3 percent), displaying the diversity of Australia's source markets," he said.
Tourism Australia has already identified China and India as the major source of visitors and announced a number of initiatives to keep the momentum going.
"We are in transition, but the long-term sustainability of the industry is sound and the trajectory is good," Tourism Australia spokesperson Simon Westaway has been quoted by Fairfax Press as saying.
"We are seeing continuing record numbers of visitors from China, Singapore, Malaysia, India and Indonesia," he said.
(Rekha Bhattacharjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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