Canberra makes bigger push into Asia, a growing visitor source market

Encouraged by the strong growth in visitor arrivals from Asia, which once trailed behind its traditional markets from the US and Europe, Canberra is now pumping more efforts and resources into wooing travellers from the region, particularly China, India, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Andrew Barr, chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory, whose portfolio includes minister for tourism & special events and minister for trade, industry & investment, said: “Not too long ago, Europe, the US and the UK were key markets and Asia lagged behind, due to lack of awareness. Canberra was overshadowed by Sydney and Melbourne.

Canberra is promoting destination awareness among Asian visitors (Pictured: Parliament House in Canberra)

Since March, Visit Canberra has stepped up promotion efforts in South-east Asia, with the appointment of a full-time staff based in Singapore to service the travel trade and promote the Australian capital city in this region. “This has helped us build a stronger relationship with the travel trade and create more awareness of the destination,” said Barr.

Furthermore, Singapore Airlines’ daily Singapore-Canberra service via Sydney, launched since May 2018, has also bolstered the strong growth of Asia, which currently accounts for about 40 per cent of arrivals to Canberra.

“We have a strong partnership with Singapore Airlines and leverage (the carrier’s) distribution power through their global network to further promote the destination,” he added.

Barr is leading the Canberra delegation to Australia Marketplace South East Asia 2019 (AMSEA), which is currently taking place in Kuala Lumpur from September 30 to October 2. It is the first time AMSEA, formerly known as Walkabout South East Asia, is held in Malaysia. The event saw the participation of a total of 177 delegates, with 78 Australian tourism businesses meeting with 81 buyer companies from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Brent Anderson, regional general manager, South & South-east Asia, Tourism Australia, shared that Malaysia was chosen to host this year’s AMSEA as it showed strong potential for further growth in arrivals as the seventh largest source market. “Over the last 18 months, arrivals have been hovering around 400,000,” he said.

According to Anderson, Australia has been attracting a growing number of travellers from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia looking for short getaways, especially during long weekends and school holidays.

“As more than 80 per cent of travellers from Malaysia and Singapore are repeat visitors, The UnDiscover Australia Campaign launched in September 2018 is a huge success because it showcased new experiences and destinations in Australia beyond the traditional city gateways of Sydney, Melbourne and Perth,” he said.

A trend noted by Visit Canberra is the growing number of millennial travellers, who are in part drawn by the many nature-based attractions located within a two-hour drive from Canberra’s CBD. Higher education institutes like the Australian National University, University of Canberra and Canberra Institute of Technology are also attracting Asian students, who in turn creates traffic from the visiting friends and relatives segment.

Apple Holidays Singapore’s director, Benny Ho, observed: “Airline promotions and a favourable exchange rate are driving demand for short breaks (to Australia) for the Singapore market. We also see repeat visitors wanting to explore new destinations, such as Uluru and Alice Springs, both in the Northern Territory.”

Adam Saunders, managing director of, a first-time seller at this show, sees growing demand for private Muslim-friendly tours around Perth amongst visitors from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. A year ago, his company launched Muslim-friendly tours, which now accounted for five per cent of the company’s revenue.

Anderson shared that Tourism Australia also saw the potential of the Muslim travel market and that more efforts had to be taken to tap into that market. He said: “We had an internal planning meeting last week and halal- and Muslim-friendly tourism were among the topics discussed. We know we are lagging behind South Korea and Japan in this area, so we hope to work with the Australian travel trade to roll out new initiatives by 2021. ”

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