Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

VFR Travel from India: A Moveable Feast for Australia

TRAVEL INDUSTRY OPINION
FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION
Sydney, 29 January 2015

India and Australia share many things including the same national day (26th January). As we head back from the holidays, discussions round the MyTravelResearch.com barbecue focused on the many reasons why Australia should encourage more friends and family visits (VFR travel) from India

By Carolyn Childs, co-founder of MyTravelResearch.com

Carolyn Childs

In the travel industry, the Indian market keeps on giving due to its size: UNWTO forecasts 50 million outbound visits by 2020. And in our case there’s the loyalty factor. Based on 2013 figures, 47% of arrivals to Australia are repeat visitors.

So, in the Indian market, which segment holds the greatest sizzle for Australia? Around the MyTravelResearch.com barbecue we concluded that the answer is VFR – Visiting Friends and Relatives.

Why VFR?
When sala sauce and the barbecue meet, it’s a marriage made in heaven. But it’s more than that. India’s VFR sector makes longterm sense for Australia’s tourism economy.

India has a widely dispersed émigré population with about 100 million settled overseas, mostly in North America, Australia and the UK. So India offers plenty of filling in the middle.

Australia is at the forefront of the Indian VFR wish list. Indian-born Australian residents doubled 2006-2011. India is now the largest source of permanent migration to our country.

This vast and growing diaspora creates a major opportunity for VFR tourism. According to Amadeus, Frost and Sullivan, 43% of Indian travellers identified VFR as their main reason for international travel.

The VFR trend is gathering momentum. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) plots trends from incoming passenger cards that everyone completes when they land. Data from the cards showed that “VFR” began to exceed “holiday” as the purpose of visit for Indian inbound travellers around 2007. The trend is likely to continue.

David Sheldon of Elm Cottage at Tumut (Snowy Mountains) is one operator who is seeing the benefits of investing in the Indian VFR market.

“We find the Indian market is a really great one for us. Most of our Indian visitors come as part of a reunion with families here in Australia. Some 75% of them are repeat visitors. As we build our relationships in the sector, we see Indians increasingly coming outside our winter season.”

This makes them valuable to the economy and a great vehicle for tourism dollar dispersal. Therein lies the opportunity for Australian attractions, tour operators and hospitality services.

All About the Money?
Yield, however, is a challenge. While Indian R travellers don’t spend much per night ($37 on average over 2009-2013, says Tourism Research Australia), like backpackers, they stay a long time (59.7 nights).

David says it’s true that Indian travellers want a deal. “But when we explain our pricing, 95% of them understand. It’s about communicating value.”

Note however: Indians may expect children to be included in an adult costing structure. “One lesson we learnt the hard way,” says David, “is that Indians often don’t regard children as a measurable number. So there has to be a costing to accommodate that expectation.”

Packages are also important. Research by Tourism Australia in 2013 found that 35% of Indian travellers prefer a pre-packaged group tour travelling only with family and friends, whilst another 33% prefer a package that is customized to their needs or those of their friends or family.

Decision-making can be slow. Our research tells us that Indians need a comparatively long time to make a decision. They will ask you many questions. They will require many different options. Be patient. (And remember that like most of us they will often pick the middle option. So make that the one you really want them to take. Just make sure you are happy with the cheapest option too.)

On destination perception, Australia’s brand image precedes it. An Indian VFR visit to Australia offers bragging rights back home.We know Indians place a great importance on the recommendations of family and friends who live in Australia or who have previously visited. Such networks nurture the pool of advocates in India, where many are digitally savvy and active on social media.

Australian travel brands should use these social, digital and familial networks as their advocacy base.

As Indian travellers embrace their friends and relatives in Australia, marketers here should embrace both Indian hosts and Indian visitors.

At MyTravelResearch.com, we see the Indian-Australian VFR barbecue as a long-term moveable feast.

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About MyTravelResearch.com
MyTravelResearch.com is a market research and marketing firm specializing in the travel, tourism and aviation industries. Its specialty is providing insights that are actionable.

Founded by principals with lifetime careers in travel, tourism and aviation, MyTravelResearch.com exists to build the visitor economy and successful tourism businesses. It does this by putting the voice of the customer and best practice business thinking into an easy to implement, hands-on approach via an innovative membership model. MyTravelResearch.com can help:

* National Tourism Organizations (NTOs) meet the expectations of their industry by acting as an extension of their research and marketing resources
* Businesses make more informed decisions. (It is like having your own research and/or marketing team)

Visit www.MyTravelResearch.com
Email: carolyn@mytravelresearch.com or bronwyn@mytravelresearch.com

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