Remarks by Ambassador Nancy J. Powell at the Travel and Tourism USA Seminar.
Thank you, Chairman Ashwini Kakkar, Vice President Manoj Gursahani, members of the Visit USA Committee, and New Delhi travel and tour operators for your support and participation in today’s event.
It is a pleasure to promote travel and tourism to the USA! In 2011, we welcomed over 660,000 visitors from India – a new record. India is now poised to leap into the top 10 and cross the 1 million visitor mark by 2015. Indian travelers are visiting our great cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Las Vegas, or experiencing the beauty of parks like Yellowstone or Yosemite. Others are taking their families to destinations like Disney World and hopefully, my all time favorite – the Iowa State Fair, the state where I was born and raised. This increase in travel of Indians to the United States is indicative not just of America’s welcoming atmosphere, but also of the strengthening relations our two peoples have. With the help of Visit USA and tour operators like yourselves, we expect this positive trend to continue.
The American Embassy here in New Delhi has organized this seminar to help you facilitate your clients visiting the United Sates. I am pleased to see the Commercial, Consular and Press Sections collaborating together as a team on this important initiative.
Travel and tourism to the U.S. is an important way for us to expand our cultural, and commercial ties and increase trade growth between our countries. Total spending by Indians traveling to the U.S. was $4.6 billion last year, up 15 percent from the year before. But the most important aspect of travel and tourism between our two countries is not the dollar figures, but the person-to-person relationships that are cultivated.
I see those interactions as I travel widely around India in my job. People in both of our countries need more opportunities to meet face-to-face and interact with one another – whether for business or on holiday.
Under President Obama’s leadership, the U.S. government is working closely with America’s travel and tourism industry to encourage more travel from countries such as India to the U.S. This is part of a larger plan called our National Travel and Tourism Strategy. Already, we have launched BrandUSA, a public-private partnership – which you can find online at thebrandusa.com.
And I am very pleased to say that the Obama Administration is taking concrete actions to help more people from India visit America, and do so more easily.
Recently, the U.S. Department of State implemented a program that will allow certain applicants to apply for visas without being interviewed in person by a U.S. consular officer. You will hear more about the process of applying for visas later in the program during a presentation by our Consular Section.
This will make it easier for Indian citizens to come to the U.S. for business meetings and also take time to enjoy the many tourist and cultural activities that America has to offer.
We will continue to find more ways to make travel from India to the U.S. as simple as possible. I look forward to working with this Committee and the Indian travel agency community on this very important effort and I hope that you find today’s program informative and helpful.