Air India will fly daily direct services between Melbourne and Delhi in a significant move that will strengthen trade and cultural ties between Australia's Victoria state and India.
Premier John Brumby and Industry and Trade Minister Jacinta Allan on Tuesday signed a deal with Air India to fly daily direct services between Melbourne and Delhi starting November 1 this year.
Brumby said Air India's decision to make Melbourne the destination for its first direct international flight to Australia was recognition of Victoria being Australia's premier destination for Indian tourists and businesses.
"Air India will also be establishing their regional headquarters in Melbourne. This Air India deal will create up to 78 jobs and see up to 123,000 new tourist and business arrivals from India to Victoria each year," Brumby said.
"This significant move is in part due to the strong ties Victoria shared with India. With daily direct flights between Melbourne and Delhi we expect these ties to become even stronger as more Indian tourists and businesspeople discover Victoria, and more Victorians discover India."
Brumby said data from Tourism Research Australia late last year showed a 17.4 percent increase in visitors from India to Victoria in the year to March 2010.
"Victoria and India share common interests in cricket, international education, film and trade," Brumby said.
"With a growing Indian community living here in Victoria we are also seeing more relatives and friends visit Victoria which is great for local jobs and the economy as tourism grows."
Allan said Air India's arrival in Victoria highlighted the competitive strengths of Melbourne Airport compared to its interstate equivalents.
"Melbourne Airport is Australia's major around-the-clock, curfew-free international airport, accommodating international carriers at about half the operating cost incurred at Sydney," she said.
"The airline is now one of 560 aviation and aerospace companies operating across Victoria, which collectively employ around 22,000 people and combined with the Tourism sector generate approximately $20 billion of economic activity for the state each year."