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US products to focus on India

The renewed thrust of US tourism products on India was evident at the Brand USA India roadshows in Mumbai and Delhi. The data shows visitors from India spent US$4.4 billion in the US in 2011, an increase of nearly 10 per cent from 2010. Indians rank as the 10th biggest spenders in the US.

Universal Studios, which offers entertainment experiences to visitors through its theme parks and resorts, is looking at the Indian market more optimistically. “Four per cent of the visitors to US went to visit Universal Studios in 2011. We have seen a 2.6 per cent growth in visitor arrivals till September 2012. We are also witnessing increased number of visitors from India,” Alison Nicholls, USH Manager EMEA, Universal Studios, said. Universal Studios was among the delegation representing 30 leading American companies in tourism, hospitality and retail chains. According to Nicholls, Universal Studios is celebrating its centenary, and Brand USA is giving an impetus to visitors to see its product offerings.

Another tourism product, Madame Tussauds, was also quite bullish on the Indian market. “We are planning to set up a temporary wax exhibit in an Indian city next year to create awareness about Tussauds in the Indian market,” revealed Yaniv Didi, Trade Sales Manager, Madame Tussauds New York. Didi expressed his wish to work closely with the Indian travel trade.

Anna Karnowski, Director, Tourism Sales, Circle Line, is also seeing growth potential in India. “We are seeing a growing trend in business from the Indian market. The response from the Indian travel trade is great. New York is a dream destination for a lot of Indians and is the entry point to the US. However, the Indian travel trade is a bit nervous about selling the destination because they are not very aware about it. Once we train them on it and grasp our product offering, we expect to see RoI over time,” Karnowski added.

One of the representatives of the hospitality chain in the Brand USA team was Choice Hotels International. Vasudha Sondhi, who represents Choice Hotels International in India since 2002 through her company Outbound Marketing, expects growth in business from India to Choice Hotels. “We have been recording a year on year growth of 35-40 per cent, primarily from corporate business travellers. We are also focusing on Indian leisure markets since the last two years, and response from the leisure segment has been quite encouraging,” she said, adding that India contributes tens of thousands of room nights to Choice Hotels, mainly in US. Outbound Marketing has been generating a lot of business for Choice Hotels in New York, California, New Jersey, Texas, Atlanta and Ohio among others. The ARR for Choice Hotels International is in the range of US$150 to 200.

Pier 39, a dining, shopping and entertainment complex in San Francisco, was also part of the delegation. “The response during the roadshow has been tremendous and we are planning to include Jain vegetarian food at our restaurants,” Jodi Cumming, Director of Tourism Department, Pier 39, stated.

Premium Outlets, a leading American retailer with 58 centres, attended the roadshow for the second year in a row. “We have been offering 25-60 per cent discounts on items compared to the general market. A lot of Indians come to our outlets for shopping. The response from the Indian market is quite encouraging, particularly in New York and California,” Maura K Eggan, Vice President, Marketing – Western Region, Premium Outlets, said. Premium Outlets is working in close coordination with tour operators and Visitors and Conventions Bureau to increase footfall to its stores. “The trade in India is very willing to learn about newer products. We are absolutely delighted with the reception and are positive that this initiative would go a long way in promoting USA as a tourism destination,” she added.

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