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Indians spend more on US tours

Posted on April 3, 2012
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Vusacom logoLeading tour operators have requested the US government to simplify visa procedures to boost meeting incentive exhibition (MICE) tourism. The Visit USA Committee (Vusacom), a collaborative effort by tour operators and the US Commerce Department, was launched by US commerce secretary John Bryson on Friday.

“Travel and tourism to the US is an important way for us to expand our commercial ties and ensure balanced trade growth between our countries. Total spending by Indians traveling to the US was $4.6 billion last year, up 15 per cent from the year before. With the help of Visit USA, we expect this trend to continue,” said Bryson. He said around 660,000 Indians visited the country last year.

Indians are number twelve in tourist arrivals into the US and the Vusacom hopes to bring it in single digits.

According to Ashwini Kakkar, managing director of Mercury Travels, outbound leisure tours to US make a small portion of Indian travel companies business. US is a long haul destination nd it is short haul holiday destinations such as Bangkok, Sinagpore or Dubai which are the favourites, he said.

An executive of another tour company puts the share of US business around 15 per cent which is much less compared to Europe and South East Asia. Also, a large percentage of Indians travelling to the US fall under the visiting friends and relatives category who do not take a package tour.

Kakkar, president of Vusacom, said the companies are seeking easier visa procedures which will encourage MICE tourism. According to him several foreign governments accept a guarantee from corporates organising the tours when issuing the visas. “However US visas are issued on a case to case basis and there is a fear of rejection. We are discussing these issues with the Consulate,” he said.

“US tour market has not grown. Cost is also an factor with dollar appreciating tour costs to US have increased,” observed Madhav Pai, chief operating officer (leisure travel) at Thomas Cook.

An another aspect, travel industry sources, say is that US itself has not been involved in large scale marketing to attract tourism. However, things seem to be changing now. The state of California and city of San Francisco are marketing the destinations, Sheema Vohra of Visit California said.

Recently, tour operators from US state of Georgia too did a campaign in Mumbai.

Bryson said the Commerce Department is working closely with America’s travel and tourism industry to encourage more travel from countries such as India to the US.

This is part of a larger plan called our National Travel and Tourism Strategy which will be delivered to President Barack Obama in coming weeks, he said.

Last week the US Department of State announced a new pilot programme that will allow certain applicants to apply for visas without being interviewed in person by a US consular officer.

Aneesh Phadnis

3 Apr 2012

http://business-standard.com/india/news/indians-spend-moreus-tours/469917/

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