If there is any place in the world that is crying out to be explored it has to be Australia. From Sydney Opera House to Great Barrier Reef and Bondi beach the country offers grand destinations with seemingly never-ending tropical rainforests of Queensland filled with beautiful birds and creatures, sparsely populated cities of the far west and north and Melbourne’s delicious food and coffee scene – all blended with the history of Aboriginal people. Touted to be the Capital of Culture, Melbourne a city in the state of Victoria rarely disappoints. The incredible culture, architecture, mouth-watering food and vibrant music scene make this city a must-visit.
Moreover, the country as a whole and Melbourne as a city is home to over one million Indians and just like any cultural celebration, India-Pakistan matches are also celebrated with a similar fervor as in India. And to extend this relationship further Visit Victoria, a state run tourism firm recently launched a campaign #MelbourneMoments. Cricketer Rishabh Pant and former Australian MasterChef winner Sarah Todd who has a long association with India unveiled the campaign to aspire more Indian travelers to visit Australia. The cricketer also announced the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup – India vs Pakistan match on October 23 as well as the final on November 13 at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Post the event, we caught up with Shae Keenan, CMO Visit Victoria campaign to talk more about the current travel scene post-pandemic, ICC T20 World Cup, the best places to explore in Victoria and more. Excerpts.
What can tourists traveling from India to Australia should expect post-COVID-19 pandemic?
Things have certainly changed a great deal. Australia is now open to Indian tourists. We are seeing a huge number of tourists since we opened our borders post the pandemic. International visitors to Australia are returning in a positive way, especially from India. This is a positive sign for us. In terms of experiences, people can experience a large number of new luxury hotels, a range of new restaurants and regional areas for their cultural diversity. Then there’s the ICC T20 World Cup.
How is the Australian government ensuring more efficient travel in the current unforeseen circumstances?
There are no restrictions as of now. We have a high level of vaccination drive and the majority of Australians are vaccinated so because of such high vaccinations we are not seeing any restrictions. People are still able to do all the things in their daily lives. There and no restrictions on crowd attendance at major events. When Indian travelers come to Australia they can experience everything that they would like to enjoy. Our industries are mindful of hygiene.
How do you see the India-Pakistan match adding to the tourism boost for Australia?
We are very excited about the World Cup and I am personally looking forward to attending the match and wearing blue. We have an incredibly vibrant Indian community; in fact, the largest in Australia so they have a deep connection with the India-Pakistan match. It’s not only India that is looking forward to the match but Indians living in Melbourne are very much looking forward to it. It provides a lot of tourism opportunities to showcase Melbourne and Victoria to Indian tourists. The match will take place close to Diwali so we have an opportunity to showcase everything that Melbourne and Victoria host.
For the last decade, India and Australia have seen a connection on many levels, especially with MasterChef Australia and the culinary culture. How do you see this improving tourism bonds between the two countries?
It’s an interesting question! I learned recently during my time in India how MasterChef Australia is enjoyed in India. The show is a celebration of Victoria and Melbourne’s multi-culture community and the participants and judges on the show are incredibly diverse and it’s really joyful. We agree that there is a shared experience between India and Australia since both share a deep passion for diverse food. We are planning to bring the culinary experience of Melbourne to India in a celebration of the World Cup.
Apart from food, Bollywood also shares a strong bond with Australia. However, in the last few years, the number of films being shot in Australia has declined. How do you plan to strengthen ties?
I agree. Melbourne and Victoria have hosted a number of shoots for Bollywood movies. There are agencies that are working on strengthening those ties and we also partner with them. We know that attracting Bollywood films to Australia is very much part of Melbourne’s agenda and similarly, the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne is one of them. We partnered with Bollywood to showcase how Victoria is welcoming Bollywood and celebrating Indian cinema.
Australia is also reviving the Great Barrier Reef. Do you think it will attract more tourists from India?
Australia is known for its nature and the Great Barrier Reef of course as it is the symbol of Australia. Climate change is a big issue and the Australian government is taking adequate actions to eradicate the consequence. We are observing that travelers are also conscious of the experience they are taking when they are traveling to different destinations. That’s certainly an important aspect of building conscious tourism.
How is Australia planning to welcome more students when other countries have relaxed their requirements owing to the global economic crises?
That’s a really good question. The education market of Melbourne and Victoria from India is strong. There is another area of the government, Study Melbourne, which works very hard to ensure that Melbourne and Victoria remain popular destinations for students from India. We have a large number of students which creates many opportunities and a safe corner for Indian students. I believe that’s why India and Melbourne have a great connection. There is a big focus on state and central lever to ensure that Melbourne and Victoria remain a popular destinations for Indian students.
What are the places that you recommend to visit in Victoria and Melbourne?
First off, one should start with a coffee and the cafe culture in Melbourne. The food is delicious, people can explore vegetarian and vegan cuisines and when the hustle and bustle get too much, I would recommend people to take a drive to our regional places and experience wildlife closely.