On February 16, Brand USA kicked off a formal launch of the US-India travel and tourism partnership for the year 2017. Both sides are encouraged at the meeting that was held at the launching, during which possibilities of increased air connectivity were discussed.
Brand USA President and CEO Christopher L. Thompson says the number of Indian visitors to the United States continues to grow, and the opportunities within India as a source market are numerous. In 2015, more than 1.1 million Indians visited the United States, spending $11.8 billion – overall, a 17 percent increase from the year prior. NYC & Company, NTA, and American Tours International were among the agents, operators, and attractions who also spoke of good prospects from India.
Thompson said that it was now up to the private sector to take advantage and boost arrivals from each of the countries, so that the airlines are encouraged to increase direct connectivity. The potential of the open sky policy must be utilized, he said, adding that at present only 11 percent of visitors from India reached the USA directly, while the rest traveled through the Middle East and other routes to reach America.
Brand USA will be organizing mega fam tours, and training programs for agents will be enhanced, he said, adding that easier visa rules were also discussed. A follow-up meeting of the public-private sectors of both India and the USA will be held in the US later this year, he said, to work out details.
From January to July 2016, there was a 7 percent growth in visitor arrivals to the US from India, and this year may end at a growth of 9 percent.
Suman Billa, Joint Secretary for India’s Ministry of Tourism, said that prospects of increased travel between the two countries were bright. On February 15, Thompson, along with Patrick Santillo, Minister Counselor of the US Embasssy in Delhi, India, inaugurated the US pavilion at the SATTE (South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange) travel trade show.