India and the US are set to announce a major initiative in the travel and tourism sector.

Initiative to boost tourism on the cards


India and the US are set to announce a major initiative in the travel and tourism sector, including an increase in quota for issuing US visa, in an effort to take the bilateral ties to a higher level.

US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will unveil the initiative on the sidelines of the US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue on August 30, sources in the know told Business Line.

This move follows the decision taken by the US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June when both the leaders announced that the US and India will be Travel and Tourism Partner Countries in 2017.

The thrust on travel comes as the tourism sector contributed $120 billion or 6.3 per cent to India’s GDP, which supported approximately 37 million jobs, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Subhash Goyal, Chairman of STIC Travel Group of Companies, said, “India has already taken the first step by facilitating e-Tourist visa for many nationalities, including the US. Now, we are expecting relaxation in the US visa norms and believe that the quota for issuing visas will increase.” Goyal was former President of Indian Association of Tour Operators.

Source markets

The two countries are important travel source markets for each other. The US was India’s largest source of foreign tourists in 2015, over 1.2 million American visitors came to India, accounting for 15 per cent of total foreign travellers. Visitors from the US are among the top users of e-Tourist visa, according to the US government.

According to data from Brand USA, the public-private partnership set up to promote the US as a travel destination, India ranked 11th among the top 20 tourist-generating countries for the US in 2015 with 1,125,783 arrivals, an increase of 17 per cent over the previous year. The US is eyeing 18.5 lakh Indian visitors by 2021. It also expects India to become the 9th top source market for US inbound travel from current 11th rank.

Rakshit Desai, Managing Director, India, FCM Travel Solutions and Flight Shop, said, “We have seen a 22 per cent increase in travel to the US over the last year. The US has always been an aspirational destination in addition to being a Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) and leisure travel market.”

Many States in the US, through their visitors and convention bureaus, have also been organizing road shows to attract Indians. “This is because Indians spend a lot of money on shopping and are the highest spenders in many South East Asian countries,” Goyal added.

Prior to Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the US in June, both the countries signed a MoU to facilitate India’s participation in the Global Entry program, marking a significant milestone for the tourism and aviation security.

“Global Entry will expedite travel for pre-approved, low-risk air travellers to the US once they have applied and been approved for the Global Entry program. We are currently working on the technical arrangements to bring this program online for Indian travellers,” the US Ambassador to India Richard Verma had said earlier.

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