Mar 08, 2012 at 08:29am IST

Destination America beckons tourists from Chennai

Chennai: American travel firms are wooing South India and tourists from Chennai in particular, as the United States expects the Indian travel market to grow by 90 per cent.

James Golsen, Principal Commercial Officer at the US Consulate, told City Express that South India, including Chennai, would be the factors that would help spearhead the growth in the travel industry.

Although no concrete statistics were available, Nicholas J Manring, Chief of Consular Services of US Consulate General in Chennai, told City Express that the US Consulate in Chennai alone had issued 69,716 tourist visas in 2011.

“We do estimate it to grow by another 10 per cent this year,” said Manring.

Interestingly, the number of travelers from emerging economies with a growing middle class population such as India, is expected to multiply in the coming years.

US Consul General Jennifer McIntyre said that it was the people to people connection that enhanced the value of travel and friendship between the two nations.

“Each time an Indian takes a vacation in the US, visits a friend or relative, travels or does business, or begins a degree programme, the connection between our two countries is strengthened,” said McIntyre.

She felt that the growth rate of travellers from India to America was projected to increase by 50 per cent.

Manring also said that the US Consulate in Chennai had introduced a series of measures, which included faster interview processes, besides reducing the waiting time to less than 10 days, to assist the growth.

Manring added that plans to expand the number of banks to accept visa fees in Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities by the end of the year were on. Golsen also informed that though the US is trying to woo tourists from China and Brazil, their prime focus is India. Manoj Gursahani, vice-chairman of VUSACOM, an independent voluntary organisation comprising  travel trade professionals and formed with the support of the US Consulate General, said that Chennai would soon have a VUSACOM chapter with the sole objective to promote travel to the United States.

Currently 6,50,000 tourists from India travel to the United States, where  they spend about $4,500 during their stay, said Gursahani.

He also said that he expected the number to go up by 9,00,000 within a year. He informed that the total spend of India in the United States was $3 billion.

India is currently ranked 12th in terms of the number of tourists visiting the US, but Vusacom felt the number would soon reach the ninth spot.

But with stringent security restrictions will the US attract tourists from abroad? “We are trying to make entry into the US as smooth as possible for leisure travel without compromising on security,” informed Golsen.