The start of Air India's direct services between India and Australia is expected to boost the number of incentive groups bringing their high-yielding business to local soil, with operators positioning themselves to take full advantage.
The Indian market delivered a 25% increase in the number of business events visitors to Australia in the year to June, with 2020 targets now considered "conservative" in light of that rate of growth, according to Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy.
The rise is likely to be further fuelled by the launch of Air India's direct India-Australia air link in just over a week. The airline's first Boeing 787 service will depart Delhi on August 29, touching down at Melbourne Airport on August 30. It will operate three weekly Delhi-Melbourne-Sydney-Delhi flights and four operating to Sydney then onto Melbourne and back to Delhi.
According to Greg Brady, the general manager of Accor's Mecure Sydney Central property, the "real potential" from the Indian market lies in incentive travel.
'But an enormous amount of that business tends to go to America or to Europe because of the difficulties here with air access," he told The Nibbler. As a result, he predicted a significant uplift in the hotel's Indian incentive business over the next six months on the back of the new air link. The hotel anticipates 5,000 room nights in 2014 will be accounted for by the Indian market.
However, the hotel is particularly well positioned to benefit from a rise in numbers because it was the first hotel to be accredited under Accor's India Optimum Service Standards program and has consquently already built a level of trust within the Indian market.
"We've got a really good relationship with a number of India companies – they know that we take care of Indian travellers so they feel comfortable putting their clients with us," Brady said.
Food considerations are taken care of by an Indian chef who can cook food from around the country, along with vegetarian dishes. Although leisure travellers are often open to trying a range of cuisines during their stay, large groups generally require Indian food.
The hotel also focuses on providing a certain level of service expected by the Indian traveller, with "little extras" going a long way.
While the new Air India service is expected to stimulate the market in the short-term, it is that level of service that Indian visitors receive while on Australian soil that will determine its sustainability, according to Brady.
"Australian operators have in the past found dealing with the Indian market quite a challenge and that's why so few hotels have embraced the market," Brady said.
"Negotiating is tough, but once you build a relationship it becomes easier, especially once they know you can deliver the product they want."
In dealing with the market, it is vital to get the food right, understand their culture and work within its negotiating process, he added.
Melbourne made history when it welcomed Australia's largest ever Indian incentive group in December. The 4,000-strong Amway India group contributed $21 million to the local economy.
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