Thursday, 23 January 2014

Oz Calling: Indian Tourists Rate Australia World's No. 1 Foodie Destination

This story first appeared on Page 23 of Mail Today dated January 23, 2013. To see the original, log on to http://epaper.mailtoday.in/epaperhome.aspx?issue=2312014.
Copyright: Mail Today Newspapers.


By Sourish Bhattacharyya
INDIANS who have been to Australia rank the country's as the world's No. 1 destination for food and wine, above France and Italy. This remarkable finding has been brought to light by a 15-nation  Consumer Demand Research Project conducted by Tourism Australia. The ranking given to Australia's food and wine by Indian travellers is the same as that of their peers, significantly, from France, as those from the USA, UK, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Come February, Tourism Australia will
launch a worldwide campaign to woo
foodies with experiences such as dinners
Sound of Silence dinners at Ayers Rock
Overall, Australia ranked No. 2 in the survey and, interestingly, No. 6 among people who had not visited Australia. The No. 1 ranking given by Indians to Australia has come as a pleasant surprise for another reason as well -- India has just edged out Germany to become Australia's 10th largest tourism source market, so the perceptions of its outbound travellers carry the weight of numbers. Even in the social media, India, with five million fans, ranks No. 4 on Tourism Australia's Facebook page and No. 3 in terms of engagement.
These rankings matter to Tourism Australia because the theme of its 2014 promotional campaign, to be launched worldwide in February, is Restaurant Australia. It is being designed to promote the diversity and depth of the country's internationally acclaimed culinary experiences. And the 15-nation survey has revealed that 'good food, wine, local cuisine and produce' are the third most important reason, after 'safety and security' and 'value for money', for outbound travellers to visit a destination. For a country with iconic restaurants such as Tetsuya (Tetsuya Wakuda), Attica (Ben Shewry) and Quay (Peter Gilmore), and expat chefs of the stature of David Thompson (Nahm) and Brett Graham (The Ledbury), this must be heart-warming news.
"The Indian perception of Australia
as the world's leading foodie
destination owes a lot to the
success of MasterChef Australia,"
says Nishant Kashikar, Country
Manager, Tourism Australia
Sharing the survey findings with this writer, Nishant Kashikar, Country Manager-India, Tourism Australia, said the Indian perception of Australia as a foodie destination owes a lot to the success of the reality television series MasterChef Australia in India. "MasterChef Australia, moreover, is all about multi-cultural Australia. That is what Australia is all about," Kashikar said.
To emphasise this point, Kashikar pointed to the success Down Under of the Indian restaurants Aki's and Zaffran, both in Sydney. Vikrant Kapoor of Zaffran, in fact, is a regular on Tourism Australia commercials to promote the destination. Buoyed by the Indian response to Aussie food and wine offerings, Kashikar proposes to promote Australia's exciting culinary trails through some of the country's most scenic spots.
"Could it be walking the produce trail of Kangaroo Island or washing down freshly shucked oysters with a glass of Coles Bay bubbles in Tasmania? Buying a bucket of prawns from the Fremantle fish markets or bar-hopping from rooftop to rooftop above Melbourne's laneways? Sipping a cocktail at Bondi Beach or a craft beer in Cairns, or learning how to make bread from plant seeds on a Top End bush tucker tour?" asks a Restaurant Australia promotional book, laying out just some of the options to make world-travelled tourists shed their been-there-done-that reluctance to go back Down Under for yet another vacation.
"These are the best times for us," says Kashikar. The number of Indian visitors to Australia rose by 11 per cent to touch 170,000 in the year ending Septmber 2013. The leisure segment grew at a higher rate (16 per cent), which Kashikar attributes mainly to the addition of Air-India's Delhi-Melbourne-Sydney daily Dreamliner flight. So did the per-person spend (23 per cent). An Indian tourist, on average, spends 11 nights in Australia and ends up forking out AUD5,000 (Rs 275,000) per visit.
All this makes Outbound India a very important source market for Tourism Australia. Come February, this market will be wooed by Tourism Australia by the many tastes and flavours that define the country's food and wine culture.