Brand USA organised its first sales mission in India after a hiatus of more than three years due to the pandemic.
As part of the India Sales Mission, a delegation of 25 exhibitors visited Mumbai and Delhi from March 19 to 23, 2023.
“We are in the post-pandemic recovery phase. It is the first time we are here since September 2019 and we are excited to be back. Last year, India was the number four overseas source market (excluding Canada and Mexico) for us with about 1.3 million visitors – 15 per cent down compared to 2019 visitations,” said Jackie Ennis, vice president, global travel trade, Brand USA.
This year, the NTO is focusing on marketing segments such as the outdoors, luxury, culinary, and sports to the Indian market.
“We intend to work closely with Indian travel agents to promote unique experiences you can have in the US and not elsewhere. After the pandemic, people want to explore open spaces – so, promoting our outdoor activities is one of our focus areas. Sports tourism has also a lot of potential considering the popularity of sporting events, like the NBA league in India,” she added.
As per Ennis, the NTO is keen to organise a mega fam trip for Indian travel agents, but is unable to do so as outbound flights from India to the US are fully booked due to overwhelming demand.
“US carriers including American Airlines and United Airlines were looking to introduce more flights to the Indian market but the Russia-Ukraine conflict resulted in a delay of their plans,” said Ennis.
Presently, United Airlines operates seven weekly direct flights from Newark to New Delhi, while American Airlines offers seven weekly direct services from New York (JFK) to New Delhi. Meanwhile, Air India is operating 46 weekly direct flights to the US.
Another challenge for Indian outbound travellers is reports of long delays in trying to obtain visas to the US, even though the US opened its borders to international travel more than a year ago.
However, several Indian travel agents told TTG Asia that the situation has improved of late.
“(The) visa situation is much better now. For group visas, it is taking some time but for FITs and families, appointment slots are available,” said Veena Robinson, vice president India sales, Discover Destinations.
She added: “We are seeing that more and more Indian travellers want to explore destinations beyond New York, Washington, or Niagara Falls. There is demand for products like National Parks and self-drive tours now. Every third query that we are receiving is for self-drive options.”