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Call from Down Under
- Aussie minister woos city tourists

Australia expects tourist traffic from India to hit 500,000 per year by 2018, with Calcutta contributing “significantly” to visitors Down Under.

“We expect tourism from India to continue to grow substantially, mirroring the spectacular growth in the Indian economy. Calcutta, with its rising number of young professionals, will be a major focus area for Tourism Australia,” Martin Ferguson, the Australian minister for tourism, resources and energy, told Metro on Tuesday.

Ferguson, who inaugurated a nodal India office of Tourism Australia in Mumbai before arriving in Calcutta for the International Mining & Machinery Exhibition (IMME) 2008, also met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to apprise him of the Australian participation in the trade expo. Australia is the focus country at IMME 2008, being held at Salt Lake stadium with more than 50 participants from the mining technology, equipment and services sectors.

“The Mumbai office will work with our high commission to devise strategies for different parts of India, and Calcutta will have a specific branding plan,” Ferguson said.

From the Blue Mountains to the Sydney Opera House, the Gold Coast, the Honeymoon Market and the vast, enchanting Outback, Australia is rolling out the red carpet for Indians, with customised packages for individual and group tourists.

Last year, India was Australia’s second-fastest growing market in the tourism sector, with number of Indian visitors soaring 13.6 per cent to 95,100. Till August 2008, while overall count of tourists decreased, the number of Indian tourists to Australia jumped by 22,000.

In the past five years, the number of Indians visiting Australia has grown by more than 20 per cent annually. The reverse traffic is also picking up with Australian tourists seeking out Indian holiday destinations.

“Calcutta, with its rich history and colonial heritage, can become a huge attraction for Australians. The colonial edifices in Dalhousie Square, the Victoria Memorial and of course, the hallowed Eden Gardens, are USPs of this great metropolis,” the minister pointed out.

Saying that cricket has a huge potential to boost people-to-people ties, Ferguson stressed on the need to promote sports, the arts and culture for furthering ties.

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