India-U.S. Tourism Year Provides Major Inbound Travel Focus

By: Stephen B. Richer, IITA Consultant

2017 is the year in which the United States and India are strategically developing new ways to increase visitation between the two nations.

Following on the heals of the highly success China-US Tourism Year in 2016, the pairing of India with the United States offers a second country with a massive growing middle class within a national population exceeding a billion and a high desire to experience travel to America.

Between the years 2008 and 2015, arrivals from India to the United States increased from 559,000 to 1,126,000 or an 88% increase. This represented a growth in tourism receipts from India of $6.7 billion to $11.8 billion over those years according to the U. S. Department of Commerce’s National Office of Travel and Tourism In-Flight Survey. The NOTT projects that India has the capacity to surpass China in total arrivals within a decade at the current rate of growth.

The kickoff for the Indo- U.S. Tourism Year took place in February at the gigantic Indian tourism fair, SATTE, held annually in New Delhi. Led by CEO Chris Thompson of Brand USA and NOTT Deputy Director Isabel Hill, the United States delegation hosted a magnificent dinner with approximately 300 key Indian travel leaders to get activities for the year started.  Among the attendees from the United States was Fred Dixon, President of NYC & Company, the leading city destination for the Indian market.

The United States Pavilion at SATTE, organized by Brand USA, included a number of destinations and a few private companies, but was not the biggest presence at India’s most important and best attended travel trade show.  In 2017, the 850 exhibitors at SATTE represented destinations and private companies from 35 countries and 28 Indian states.  The travel industry attendance exceeded 20,000 buyers, most of whom were Indian travel agents.

The SATTE trade show will be held in 2018 in New Delhi, January 31 to February 2.  It is a tremendous opportunity for inbound operators to cement a presence in this rapidly growing, English speaking market. Check with Brand USA about its presence or go directly to the SATTE website, www.satte.in, for more information.

Brand USA is also operating a sales mission to India in September, which is already sold out.  Delegation members will visit with Indian buyers in Mumbai, Chennai, and New Delhi, September 10-15.  A full report of the results from this mission can be expected on its site, www.thebrandusa.com, this fall.

Finally, a number of US destinations will be working with nine key destinations in India through a unique marketing project being organized by the national executive committees of Skal International in the United States and India.  In a Skal International program called “twinning”, the nine Skal Clubs in India will be matched with clubs in the United States on long term relationships for the purposes of creating an exchange of information, possible visitation, and individual business relationships and building visitor traffic between the paired destinations, as well as stimulating bilateral international traffic between our two nations in general.

The Skal World Congress will be held in Hyderabad, October 5-8, 2017, at which there will be a trade show with hundreds of Indian buyers in attendance and a special ceremony for the “twinning” of the clubs.

For more information on that event, go to www.skal.org

Although the market is still relatively new and heavily concentrated on the East Coast, the broad distribution of the Asian Indian diaspora, which is the basis for much of the VFR and leisure market accounting for 50% of all travel from India presently, gives every inbound operator an opportunity to profit from this rapidly growing source of international visitors.  Be sure to earn your piece of this market by starting early!