Race row may hit tourism in Australia

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Sydney, Jan 11 (UNI) The Oz may be the World Champions but off the field its India which call the shots as the financial powerhouse of International cricket, a point well taken by Queensland Tourism Minister Desley Boyle, who feared a loss of 32 million dollars Indian market due to the racism row.

''India is one of the state's fastest growing tourism market with Tourism Forecasting Council of Australia predicting an average annual growth rate of 17.4 per cent each year to 2016,'' Boyle said.

The state government is confident the cricket racial row will not affect a Tourism Queensland trade mission to India.

''I have given the group a clear charter to ensure that the fantastic relationship being enjoyed by the two countries tourism industries would not be affected by current issues,'' she said.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has threatened to pull out of the Australian tour if the ICC rejects an appeal against spinner Harbhajan Singh's three Test ban for racial abuse.

Ms Boyle said in the year ending September 2007, Queensland received 24,900 visitors from India, an increase of seven per cent on the previous year.

Indian visitors stayed an average of 17.5 nights in Queensland and spent a total of 32 million dollars in the year 2007.

The delegation will visit more than 600 of India's key travel industry representatives with stops at New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Bangalore.

It will conclude on January 25 with a cricket game between the delegation and Indian tourism representatives.

Ms Boyle said a new tourism campaign to lure Indian families to Queensland would also be launched as part of the trade mission.

''India is touted as one of the fastest-growing outbound tourism markets in the world,'' Boyle was quoted as saying the Australian Associated Press.

''Of the total visitors from India in 2007, a high proportion were visiting Australia for holiday and of these, approximately half visited Queensland,'' she added.

UNI XC TB AM AS1847

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