Western Australia, which is wooing Indian honeymooners, expects a direct flight connecting its capital Perth to Delhi or Mumbai to commence next year.

“For honeymooners, we have natural beauty, beaches, great wild life, excellent food & wine and customised Indian foods,” Andrew Oldfield, Director (Partnership) at Tourism Western Australia, told visiting Indian journalists here. The delegation was also briefed by other Government officials on the business opportunities in various areas, including global battery supply chain.

Western Australia has a different time zone, with a time difference of (+) 2 ½ hours with India, which is similar to Singapore and Malaysia, the two favourite honeymoon destinations for Indians. It may be noted that Australia has eight time zones but generally a time difference of (+) 5 ½ hours is taken for comparison with India.

During 2017, Australia received 3.35 lakh Indian tourists and earned A$1.5 billion (over ₹7,600 crore). Western Australia alone saw over 28,000 Indians visiting while it earned A$17 million (over ₹87 crore). At present, Indians fly mainly via Singapore and Malaysia to reach Perth. The local administration expects direct flight between the two countries will help more and more people coming from India. Direct flight to Perth from Mumbai will cut down the flying time to 8 ½ hours from over 15-16 hours (including stopovers) now.

Air India is exploring the business viability of a direct flight to Perth. At present it has a direct flight (only one) to Sydney and Melbourne. “We have started a special programme to train over 3,700 travel agents in India…18 tourism operators are coming to Perth to watch the cricket match between India and Australia and also to get familiarised with the city,” Oldfield said, adding that ESPN will telecast a special programme during the ongoing series. Also, cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle will promote Western Australia through social media.

Battery supply chain

Talking to Indian journalists, Rebecca Brown, Director-General in the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, Western Australia, said there exists opportunities for Indian companies in global battery supply chain. She said there are substantial reserves of all key battery minerals. The region is ranked No. 1 in lithium, No. 2 in rare earth and No. 3 in cobalt, all key ingredients for battery making. It has expertise in exploration, mining, processing and manufacturing design engineering.

Opportunities for battery business are picking up in India as the Centre is pushing for more and more electric vehicles. Accordingly, it has started the second phase of ‘Faster Adoption and Manufacture of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles in India or FAME.’ It proposes expenditure of over ₹9,300 crore for the next five years. The first phase of FAME ended in September during which the government offered incentives on electric and hybrid vehicles of up to ₹29,000 for bikes and ₹1.38 lakh for cars. A report by McKinsey & Co estimates that by 2030, electrification could lead to electrified vehicles holding a substantial share (up to 50 per cent of new vehicle sales in a breakthrough scenario) of the global automobile sector. More vehicles mean more demand for batteries.

At present, India imports over 8 million lithium-ion batteries a month. With more focus on e- vehicle, there is big business opportunities for regions such as Western Australia. Government officials here said there exists joint venture opportunities for Indian companies in the mining sector while it is up to Australian business houses to start manufacturing facility for batteries in India.

(The correspondent is in Perth at the invitation of the Australian Government)