MADURAI: I would like to welcome all of you to this session and thank you for taking the time to participate today. Let me begin by saying that it is indeed a pleasure to promote travel and tourism to the USA! This is an important way for India and the United States to expand both our cultural and commercial ties.
In 2012, we welcomed over 720,000 visitors from India – a new record, and a 9% increase over 2011. India is now poised to leap into the top 10 of countries sending travelers to the United States and cross the 1 million visitor mark by 2015.
The number of travelers from emerging economies with growing middle classes, such as India, is expected to multiply in the coming years. By 2018, we anticipate the growth of Indian travelers to America to jump by 50% — an impressive increase in just a few short years.
Visitors from India and beyond enjoy all that the United States has to offer. Our cities, national parks, and museums are among the finest. Our cultural diversity, the vibrancy and openness of Americans, and our entrepreneurial spirit remain an inspiration for people around the world. The United States is a premier travel destination, and we hope more Indians will choose the U.S. for their holidays.
I also want to specifically draw your attention towards the United States as one of the top Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions (MICE) destinations in the world, providing great safety and security for visitors, convenient locations for meetings and conventions, top-notch restaurants, hotels, shopping, as well as tourism opportunities in unique offsite venues and a huge variety of adventures and activities.
The U.S. offers boundless possibilities to make sure MICE groups have the experience of a lifetime. From the over 720,000 Indian visitors to the United States in 2012, 20% were business travelers. While the number of Indian MICE travelers to the United States is already on the rise, we would like to increase this number even more. We want more people to travel to, and experience, the United States.
President Obama’s Administration is working closely with America’s travel and tourism industry to encourage more international visitors to visit the United States. This is part of a larger plan under our National Travel and Tourism Strategy.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates are eager to promote tourism to the United States by working with destination management companies, airlines and travel companies. Our Consular section is fully committed to helping you and your clients navigate the visa process.
The U.S. Commercial Service office, in particular, can help you select an appropriate destination for your particular travel need through Brand USA, who has a wealth of information about USA as a destination. BrandUSA is a public-private partnership with the mission of promoting international travel to the U.S. I encourage you to visit their website: www.thebrandusa.com .
During the course of this session, you will have the opportunity to listen to presentations by representatives from BrandUSA India, Qatar Airways – a codeshare partner of American Airlines and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Our Consular section will also provide you further detailed information on the visa application process.
To our friends from the business and travel community, I want to assure you that we are committed to making travel planning for MICE and leisure as easy as possible. We are excited about the upward trajectory of Indian travel to the United States and I look forward to working with you on this very important effort to support travel to the United States.