Tourism Victoria is targeting India big time. Today India is the second fastest growing economic market for Tourism Victoria in the Asia Pacific after China. It recently hosted its second Super Trade Mission in India bringing over 180 delegates from 140 Victorian organizations, including 14 leading travel and tour operators. Among the suppliers was Melbourne Convention Bureau that inspired from hosting the huge 4,000 strong MICE delegation from India last year, wishes to attract an even greater number year long.
To learn about the initiatives MCB will take to engage with the Indian market, the facilities it has to offer and incentives on roll for selling Melbourne, Anu Bararia caught up with Karen Bolinger, Chief Executive Officer, Melbourne Convention Bureau during the trade mission over an exclusive tête-à-tête.
How important is India as a market for you?
India is an emerging market for us. We have been working in India for the last six years and see some good growth opportunities. We would like to continue doing that.
How many Indians travelled to Melbourne last year?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Overseas Arrivals and Departures, as of the end of December 2012 there were 8,760 arrivals from India who came to Australia for convention/conference purposes. Unfortunately, we do not have these figures broken down by state or city.
Could you highlight the facilities Melbourne has for MICE?
Melbourne’s convention district follows the Yarra River from the cosmopolitan Docklands in the west to Melbourne’s world-renowned sporting precinct in the east, and encompasses the city centre from the arts precinct in the south to the magnificent Carlton Gardens in the north.
This area offers more than 197,000 square metres of conference space, the pinnacle of which is the award-winning Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, which boasts 52 meeting rooms of various sizes, 30,000 square metres of pillar-less exhibition space, a 466-seat auditorium and a 5500-seat state‑of‑the-art plenary that can be divided into three smaller acoustically separate theatres.
The district also boasts over 15,000 accommodation rooms, ranging from luxurious to more budget-friendly options, many of which have access to onsite conferencing facilities.
Is India one of the top ten feeder markets?
Into Victoria? Yes. India closely follows China and New Zealand. Last year we received the biggest MICE delegation from India from Amway. It was a 4,000 strong delegation.
What marketing initiatives are lined up for this year?
First, we try to draw leverage from on one-on-one corporate deals. In addition, we will continue doing new marketing activities like promoting an incentive brochure to increase awareness about the MICE facilities available in Melbourne. We are also promoting a new programme called ‘Melbourne Values You’. We have partnered with more than 30 of our members in the categories of hotels, venues, attractions and team building companies to offer almost 80 complimentary services or discounts for incentive groups. The program has been created to target and attract new corporate and incentive business from across the globe.”
Will MCB be coming to India again this year for promotions?
Yes. We will be participating in the Tourism Australia annual trade mission end of coming August. It will be a three day business event having one-on-one meetings between 120 suppliers from Australia and their Indian trade partners. The venue has however yet not been decided.
Can you elaborate upon your distribution strategy in India?
A lot of our focus is on attending trade shows. We also have a Famil programme. Last year we partnered with Tourism Australia and brought 70 agents from India. We had another Famil earlier on this year in partnership with Tourism Australia. It was a smaller group. We will continue doing such engagement programmes on a regular basis. We will continue holding FAM trips. We will be having our Dream Time incentive programme in December wherein we will be having Indian operators. So India is always on the list. We recently also had a trade show in Melbourne and we brought an Indian contingent there as well.
What kind of challenges do you face with the Indian travellers?
Indians are value conscious and want to try the best services and facilities at the best rates. Understanding who wants what and who has the budget to pay for the best of services is a challenge. This is where a more tailor-made product for the client has to be created. Also, different people within a group have different food preferences. So much so there are sub categories of vegetarian – egg-eating and non-eating, etc. Indians have extensive food preferences which creates difficulties for us. Australia is largely a meat loving country but we do have a large Indian population living permanently. Food is therefore not a big challenge nowadays. We just need to make sure that we deliver the right product to the customers.
The other challenge is seeing enquiries converting into real visits. We host a lot of Famils but the number of real visits has to go up.
What kind of MICE travels to Melbourne?
A lot of them are Corporates on Incentive programmes.
What are your growth expectations from India this year?
While we do not have an exact figure for this, MCB is expecting to see an increase in corporate and incentive visitors from India this year following the success of the Amway India Leadership Seminar held in Melbourne in December 2012 and the interest garnered from Tourism Australia’s Melbourne NOW! campaign in India, which encouraged key travel agents in India to design new itineraries for Melbourne.
MCB is looking to capitalise on the increased exposure generated by these initiatives and our new Melbourne Values You campaign, which presents a series of special offers for incentive and corporate travel reward planners, designed to make booking and planning an event in Melbourne not only seamless, but cost effective.