Coast toasts new partnership

India is emerging as an attractive export option for Gold Coast companies

FAMOUS primarily for its Bollywood film industry, India can also lay claim to the world's second fastest growing economy, enjoying a growth rate of eight per cent last year.

Its landscape is fast changing. The Australian Trade Commission reports that more than 60 five-star hotels and 375 shopping malls are due to open in the next 18 months.

Nick Ferris, from Commerce Queensland, says India has undergone a great deal of government-led change and reform in the past five to 10 years, which has resulted in rapid growth and an expanding economy.

"The ICT, building and construction, agriculture, mining and education sectors all continue to show promising potential for growth," he says.

India is emerging as an attractive export option for several reasons - it has a similar legal system to our own, its upper and middle classes are growing rapidly and Australian products and services are generally held in high regard.

"I am of the view that there is a high degree of potential for growth based on the assumption that there continues to be a government-led economic reform agenda in practice," says Mr Ferris.

"We have seen the ICT industry in India explode in the past five years and there is room for a number of other sectors to burgeon, particularly those in the services industry."

However, Mr Ferris says there are obstacles to overcome - India's poor infrastructure, for one. To successfully enter the market requires patience, extensive market research and a good local partner.

"Like any export market, it takes time and money to generate new sales. Companies must be prepared to visit the market regularly to develop the export side of their business," he says.

That's exactly what motivated the Queensland Government to lead a tourism trade mission to India in February. State Tourism Minister Margaret Keech escorted 25 operators - up 14 on last year - to New Delhi to establish new revenue opportunities. They included representatives from Crowne Plaza Royal Pines Resort, Dreamworld, Gold Coast Tourism, Harbour Town Outlet Shopping Centre, Paradise Resort and Warner Village Theme Parks.

India has been identified as an emerging market in the State Government's $48 million Queensland Tourism Strategy and Ms Keech used the visit to launch a new tourism office in Mumbai.

"Indian travelers to Queensland increased by 29 per cent in the year to October 2006, generating a 23 per cent increase in visitor expenditure. Our research suggests there is enormous potential in specific market segments such as families, honeymooners and business tourism," says Ms Keech.

Crowne Plaza Royal Pines Resort sales and marketing director Justin Philip, a member of the trade mission, says India's population makes it a strong emerging market.

"The population base is almost equal to that of China, which makes it the second largest travel market in Asia. The Indian currency is also expected to be available for trade in the next few years, which will make it even easier for Indians to travel abroad," he says.

Add to that our strong sporting ties with the country - courtesy of cricket and hockey - and the fact English is widely spoken and it should prove to be a profitable partnership, says Mr Philip.

Statistics show the people of India are eager to explore the Gold Coast - 23,000 Indian tourists visited Queensland in the year ending September 2006 and the Gold Coast attracted more than half of those.

"Agents tell me the Gold Coast is truly a world-class tourism destination and that the region has become a 'must visit' for Indian tourist," says Ms Keech.

What makes it even more attractive is the fact Indian visitors are happy to part with their cash on the Coast.

Mr Philip says the average length of stay is three nights or more, however money is spent not just on accommodation, but dining, sight seeing and shopping. He predicts India will be a golden market for the Coast - as long as we don't get greedy.

"It is important that we do not erode the profitability by trying to get too much volume at the expense of solid rates."

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