June 5, 2019

Indian travel agents actively discouraging destination Australia

Indian based travel agents have stopped recommending Australia as a destination despite strong demand from Indian visitors, with market intelligence showing a significant slowing in market growth for 2019.

While official data from Tourism Research Australia (TRA) shows the Indian visitor market grew by 18% in 2018, the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) believes this growth rate has softened in the current year, with expectations revised down to between 10-12% – figures last seen in 2016.

“The Australian tourism industry is hamstrung by visa processing bottlenecks and we are particularly concerned about the potential impact this situation will have on next year’s ICC T20 Cricket World Cup, a time when we are looking to benefit from an influx of Indian cricketing enthusiasts,” ATEC Managing Director, Peter Shelley said.

“Processing delays for the Indian market have become so dire that we are now aware travel agents are discouraging holidays in Australia as they see a real risk that visa applications will either be knocked back or not processed quickly enough.

Peter Shelley

“With these signs of softening Indian market, we are seeing just how easily brand Australia can be damaged by an inefficient visa system.”

On the ground reports suggest Indian visa approval timelines have slipped to over 3 weeks with inconsistencies like children being granted visas where parents are refused, or where one visa in a group is processed quickly while others take more than 3 weeks.

“Online visa processing was introduced to streamline the system but the investment hasn’t been enough to really enable efficiencies and the lack of communication avenues for agents means there is just nowhere to turn for advice or assistance.

“It’s such a paradox when we have a Government and the industry driving positive messages to encourage more visitors from a range of markets, yet one silo of Government is putting up barriers.

Mr Shelley says the Indian visitor market has the potential to reach 500,000 by 2020 and 1m by 2025 but the challenge remains to overcome these bureaucratic barriers.

“Tourism is a fast moving environment and our competitors are always ready to steal our market share. When we face these obstacles to success, we need the Government to be fast paced too, so we are calling on the Morrison Government to take an ‘all of government’ approach in finding a solution, quickly.”

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