This summer’s test cricket series may still be in the balance, but India has already handed Australia a major tourism victory.
The visit of the cricket-loving nation’s top-ranked test team has fuelled a rise in Indian visitors of 18.4 percent over the previous year and a spending increase of some $1.5 billion.
Many Indian visitors are staying for extended periods Down Under, holidaying for 58 nights and spending $4783 per person on average.
The Swami Army influx is expected to generate $2.3 billion by the end of the 2020 as Tourism Australia targets India’s burgeoning middle affluent class.
Social media has played a part in that promotion, with charismatic captain Virat Kohli boasting more than 25 million Instagram followers. Kohli and his Bollywood star wife Anushka Sharma have been dubbed the Posh and Becks of India, with more than 100 million followers on social media and a net worth estimated at $120 million.
The Indian team’s Instagram following is at 49 million and its combined Facebook following exceeds 74 million – in a country with a rapidly changing demographic and more than half of the population aged 25 or younger.
A government-commissioned report released in July identified the growing significance of the Indian market to Australia’s tourism industry and the importance of capitalising on India’s projected growth.
Titled An India Economic Strategy to 2035: Navigating from potential to delivery, it predicts the number of Indian visitors to Australia growing four-fold by 2035, meaning tourism from the subcontinent could be worth over $9 billion each year to the local economy.
On its release, Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO Carol Giuseppi said the report was a timely reminder that Australia’s policies, marketing campaigns and relationships should focus on the “unique opportunity” afforded by the Indian market
“India and Australia currently enjoy a very warm relationship with significant cultural, social and economic ties, making us well positioned to take advantage of the huge potential growth in travellers from India,” she said.
Australia and India have long enjoyed strong cricketing ties, with fast bowler Brett Lee trying his hand as a Bollywood leading man and now working as a Tourism Australia advocate alongside Adam Gilchrist.
With the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne to come and Sydney following from January 3-7, tourism minister Simon Birmingham says there is potential to show visiting Indians more of the country’s attractions.
“Through Tourism Australia’s Undiscover campaign we’re looking to lure even more Indian visitors to some of Australia’s lesser known tourist destinations,” he said.
“These strong traveller numbers out today really show the strength of cricket as a powerful marketing tool as well as our Undiscover campaign starting to cut through.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reports booking numbers for the Swami Army at well-placed city hotels to be at least equivalent to those of last year’s visiting English Barmy Army during the Ashes test cricket series.
Schwartz-owned Sydney hotels are both reporting a spike in Indian visitor numbers for January according to Fairfax Media, particularly on the back of India’s victory in the first test.