Tourism Australia appeases KSA agents

Tourism Australia (TA) has hit back at claims by KSA-based agents that it has disregarded the potential of the Saudi Arabian tourist market.

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By  Gemma Greenwood Published  December 13, 2006

Tourism Australia (TA) has hit back at claims by KSA-based agents that it has disregarded the potential of the Saudi Arabian tourist market. “This year we had several promotions in Saudi Arabia, with Kanoo Holidays in particular, where a sizeable portion of our marketing budget went to helping them promote their holiday packages to Australia. We expect to do the same this coming year, expanding on what we have started,” explained Andrew Oldfield, distribution development manager, TA. “I make frequent visits to Saudi Arabia and call upon as many agents as possible, bearing brochures, maps, posters and other goodies each visit.” Oldfield was speaking after Clive Wilkins, group manager at Eagle Holidays in Olaya, Riyadh, told ATN that TA was neglecting the KSA market. “They are not doing enough to create the kind of awareness that is needed. I have been pushing and encouraging them to allocate funds here, but I believe TA does not consider Saudi Arabia a priority feeder market. On the contrary, it is the largest and most potential outbound market in the Middle East,” he said. “Spending power is huge and clients travelling to destinations such as the US, Australia and Europe, are upmarket travellers, who will only stay in five-star hotels. TA must make use of this opportunity to divert this business to Australia, which is the only destination that will match-up to what the Saudis look for in Orlando and Miami – fun for the whole family.” Wilkins and fellow KSA travel agent, Naushad Ahmad, travel executive at Jeddah-based Zahid Travel Agencies, have also complained that the visa application process for KSA nationals is “complicated” and lengthy at between 18 and 20 days. Furthermore, KSA bookings to Australia were down on 2005, Wilkins claimed. But Oldfield said KSA arrivals in Australia for the first eight months of 2006 to August were up 17% on the same period in 2005. “This is above the 6% average for the Gulf region and compared to Australia’s inbound total of –1%,” he said. Oldfield acknowledged that obtaining a visa as a Saudi national was not a “simple one-stop-shop” because passports had to be sent to Dubai for processing. “But we are working closely with the Australian Department of Immigration and hope we will soon be able to announce a change for the better ,” he added. In February, for the third year running, TA will host ‘Yinala’ – a forum for GCC travel agents. It is anticipated that 15 of the 50 agents that will attend the event in Melbourne, will be Saudi Arabian.

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