Dec 27, 2018

Opinion Piece – Swami Army has a Wealth of Talent – Herald Sun

While the battle is heating up in this excellent Test series between Australia and India, the action is even hotter for the Australian tourism industry.

The Swami Army is well and truly on the march as thousands of Indian cricket fans visit our country to catch the sporting action.

Of course, they bring with them an overwhelming love for cricket and their team, led imperiously by the brilliant Virat Kohli, but also, importantly for us, money to spend in our hotels, pubs and restaurants.

That means significant income for businesses and the creation of more jobs for Australians.

Already what has impressed so many of us this summer of cricket has been the high proportion of Indians here to enjoy the matches.

Many of the revellers are Australians of Indian decent, who, according to the 2016 census, make up about 2.8 per cent of the national population.

But thousands more will be tourists.

The 2017-18 International Tourism Snapshot showed India was by far our fastest growing market for international visitors.

While overall international tourism grew by six per cent, arrivals from India climbed by 20 per cent to 335,000.

Tourism Research Australia figures show Indian visitors stay in Australia for an average of 58 nights.

So over the rest of summer, as we watch the skills of Kohli, the awkward brilliance of Jasprit Bumrah or, hopefully, the emergence of new Australian heroes, we should also recognise the economic importance of sport-related tourism.

Of course, it will take time to assess the level of success of this year’s series.

But if last year’s Ashes Tour is any guide, Kohli, his team and their legion of supporters will provide a real boost to our economy.

According to research by independent consultancy firm IER 1.1 million people paid to attend an Ashes match last summer.

That included 30,608 international visitors.

IER found that the Ashes tour generated $114 million for the Victorian economy, $76.7 million for NSW, $60.7 million for South Australia, $36.5 million for Queensland, $16.9 million for Western Australia and $300,000 for Tasmania.

It’s no coincidence that Victoria gained the most benefit.

The state’s great and accessible stadiums, ability to attract and retain major sporting events and, above all, the sporting passion of Victorians, combine to ensure the state maximises the benefits of sporting tourism.

Indeed, after the Boxing Day Test is over and the cricket caravan moves to Sydney for the New Year Test, Melbourne will turn its sights to another big money spinner, the Australian Open Tennis.

In the 21st century, all Australian governments, along with the tourism industry, must work to exploit this growing tourism sector.

Increasing living standards, coupled with the availability of affordable airfares, mean people can afford to travel for sporting events like never before.

While that’s a benefit to our capital cities that host sporting events, the right marketing can spread the benefits.

Smart tourism operators in areas near to the locations of big sporting events market themselves to sport tourists, encouraging them to visit between tour events or after they have concluded.

And sporting tourism is not only about international tourism.

Australians are also increasingly willing to travel interstate for sporting events, particularly football matches.

Combining a sporting event with a short break gives them an opportunity to watch the game and also take in local tourism offerings.

With about a million Australians already working in tourism, our industry needs to be able to adapt to changing recreational patterns so we can extract full financial benefit.

In that context is good to see that Tourism Australia has been working with ESPN in India to link cricket broadcasts to tourism promotion.

ESPN has produced 22 videos which will be viewed by millions of people as they are broadcast during the match day coverage.

Tourism Australia has also collaborated with Indian T20 batsman Shikhar Dhawan to market Australian tourism to his 11 million social media followers.

That’s great work.

India is already Australia’s eighth largest inbound tourism market.

With a rapidly growing middle class courtesy of an ongoing economic transformation, there is much more potential.

We must tap that potential, hopefully at the same time as we reclaim the Border–Gavaskar Trophy.
This piece was first published in today’s edition of the Herald Sun.