The Indian outbound traveller is now a much-coveted commodity around the world, as the country's booming middle class seeks new destinations and emerges as a key market.
The Indian market has set a new record as 1.17 million tourists visited the US last year, according to Brand USA, the nation's first public-private partnership to promote the United States as a travel destination.
"Brand USA has reached the million visitor mark from India, we expect much more growth. This year has seen our largest delegation of our Brand USA India mission with nearly 40 organisations, we actually had a waiting list of people wanting to tap the indian market. And that really shows the importance that India has," Suzana Shepard, Manager Global Trade Development Brand USA, said during a branding event organized by Brand USA representative Sartha Global Marketing in New Delhi.
In February, Brand USA inaugurated the US-India travel and tourism partnership year in Delhi, led by the US Department of Commerce's National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO). The NTTO had forecast a 72 per cent increase in arrivals from 2015 through 2021.
While business travelers and family visits have been the norm so far, more Indians travel to less visited states and try new activities involving adventure and thrills.
"Indians are big consumers of adventure activities and this is exactly what we got in Nevada for them. The US is very much a road trip destination and there is so much to see, different landscapes, just like in India I guess but with a different decor, different people and a great melting pot of cultures," said Claudia Vecchio, Director of the Department of Tourism & Cultural Affairs in Nevada.
According to Brand USA, India ranks 11th in international visitors and also represents the sixth biggest spender with $13.6 billion registered last year.
"There is really a great opportunity, only one per cent of the population has a passport and there is a growing middle class. It leaves room for a lot development," Shepard said.
The increasing number of direct flights from India by national carrier Air India has also helped in catering to the tourists' demand, the latest being Delhi-Washington DC. A couple of years ago, Air India also added San Francisco to its other non-stop flights to New York, Chicago and Newark. The carrier is said to be evaluating a direct flight to Los Angeles as well.
"With the non-stop service from India, San Francisco Airport has seen the traffic back and forth to India grow by 10 per cent, said Melissa Andretta, Director of International Marketing at San Francisco International Airport.
"The United States has always been a prime destination for Indian tourists, the country being home to an important Indian diaspora. We are seeing a lot of FITs coming, a lot of Indian weddings celebrated in Washington DC where an important Indian origin population lives. You can even celebrate Indian festivals like Diwali just like you would do in India as the city organises special decorations and festivities," said Yi Lu, International Sales Manager at Destination DC.
On the recent visa restrictions on Indian travellers to the USA, Shepard said that they had no impact on the tourism to India and that Indians are warmly welcomed by many Americans.
(Christine Nayagam can be reached at email@example.com)