Tourism Australia has revealed that visiting friends and relatives (VFR) market is the fastest-growing sector in the UK for the country, according to new figures. VFR increased 4% during 2009 and Austravel believes it has more growth potential if it is nurtured by long-haul tour operators. “Until now, operators have felt that that the market more or less takes care of itself and that it’s difficult to convert those bookings into tourist dollars,” said Austravel Brand Manager Ben Briggs. “However, this market has the emotional incentives to continue to travel regardless of economic and climate fall-outs and at Austravel, we believe there is a way to convert VFR bookings into on-the-ground spending.” Earlier this year, the operator launched its home and away online booking service, enabling visitors to book accommodation in pound sterling at the same rates even while away in Australia and New Zealand. There is also a ‘Live like a local’ concept to offer a new range of Kiwi accommodation for British VFRs.