18 June 2009
Visiting Australia given the all-clear by Indian agents
Indian travel agents and tour operators attending the Australian Tourism Exchange have given the all-clear to visiting Australia.
The agents told Imtiaz Muqbil, executive editor of Travel Impact Newswire, that they had no cause for concern over the recent spate of reports of attacks on Indian students in Australia, and would be advising their clients visiting Australia accordingly.
The Indian travel agent’s opinion was formed after spending considerable time talking to Indian students and residents of Melbourne. All the agents said they felt that the issue had been blown out of proportion.
New Delhi’s Weldon Tours and Travels representative, Guldeep Singh Sahni, said that as a bearded and turban-wearing Sikh, he had seen himself as a perfect target.
“I went around everywhere, including some of the places where these attacks are supposed to have taken place,” he said. “I had no problems.”
He said he had been told that while some of the recent attacks on Indian students may be racial in nature, most of the incidents are either random violence or people just settling personal scores.
Mr Sahni said he would be going back to India to tell his clients they had nothing to worry about when visiting Australia.
Victoria's Minister for Tourism & Major Events, Tim Holding, said he felt Melbourne was one of the safest cities in Australia and that Victoria generally had the lowest violent crime rate.
However, he said, the state government recognised the fact that these attacks on Indian students had taken place and considered them to be “completely unacceptable.”
He said that the state government was doing “everything we can to address the issues”, including working closely with the Victorian police authorities and channelling more resources to those parts of Melbourne that were considered vulnerable, including some public transport.
“Melbourne will continue to be a safe place for visitors from overseas,” he said.
Most travellers to Australia – apart from New Zealanders - will need to apply for an Australian travel visa to enter the country for tourism purposes. For those from eligible countries, the Australian Holiday Visa - ETA visa is a simple, instantaneous holiday visa that allows people to holiday in Australia for up to three months.