US visas in India set to scale all-time peak in 2023

Discover Destinations & US Commercial Service host joint tourism event
/ New Delhi
United States Commercial Service & Discover Destinations recently held a tourism event
US visas in India set to scale all-time peak in 2023

United States Commercial Service & Discover Destinations recently held a tourism event in New Delhi

On the back of an unprecedented boom in the number of Indian travellers to the United States, the two governments relaunched their bilateral Travel and Tourism Working Group which recently held its first meeting in New Delhi. As part of its promotional activities, the United States Commercial Service organised a tourism event in New Delhi in collaboration with Discover Destinations, an American DMC.
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Though the United States Embassy in India has already processed well over 1 million visa applications since the beginning of 2023 and with over two months to go before the year ends, the number of Indian travellers to the US is set to scale yet another all-time peak this year.

To keep the momentum growing, the United States Commercial Service recently tied up with an American Destination Management Company Discover Destinations to host a tourism networking event in New Delhi, where several leading destinations and tourism stakeholders from the United States participated along with representatives of Indian travel trade. The event reflected the desire of the two governments to strengthen the exchanges in travel and tourism sector, say US officials.

Jonathan Heimer, Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs, of the US Embassy

Jonathan Heimer

‘‘The United States Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, and the Indian Minister of Commerce, Piyush Goyal, have recently relaunched the Travel and Tourism Working Group under the US India Commercial Dialogue. Just last week we successfully conducted the first Travel and Tourism Working Group meeting between the Indian Ministry of Tourism and the US National Travel and Tourism Office in New Delhi,’’ Jonathan Heimer, Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs, of the US Embassy told the gathering.

“The US Embassy in India is also very supportive of travel and tourism as a sector and we focus on a lot on. A number of initiatives have been taken and continue to be taken to streamline the visa application process. These include the Interview Waiver Programme or the Global Entry Programme to permit as many Indian tourists as possible to travel to the United States,’’ Heimer added.

“I imagine that this will be a record-breaking year for visa processing from the United States government and will continue to grow in the years ahead. There are immense opportunities in the United States from its diverse tourist offerings, including iconic landmarks, vibrant cities, natural wonders, food tours, cultural experiences, educational exchanges, and its advanced health care facilities, also attracting medical and wellness tourism,’’ he said.

In his address, US Consul General Brendan Mullarkey said that after the pandemic, the United States had accorded top priority to India in order to facilitate visa applications.

US Consul General,Brendan Mullarkey

Brendan Mullarkey

‘‘India is the top priority for the US for the visas. Two years ago, as we were coming out of the pandemic, the situation was very dire in terms of staffing strength and meeting demand for all the people who wanted to travel to the US. These were not the people looking to have fun at the Disneyworld or New York, but students, workers and families who got separated during pandemic. So, our headquarters decided to prioritise India over pretty much every other country in the world. And you can see that reflected in the volume of visa applications that we’re processing,’’ Mullarkey said.

‘‘The only country in the world that has a higher volume is Mexico. And that’s obviously because they are our neighbour and they will always be number one. But after Mexico, India has the highest volume of visas processing anywhere in the world. As as evidence of the State Department’s commitment to prioritise India, they have greatly increased our staff strength in India,’’ he added.

Mullarkey said that despite all the efforts, the visa application waiting period for the first-time travellers from India continued to be around 500 days and to address this challenge, the US State Department had agreed to increase the staff strength even beyond what was the pre-pandemic peak. ‘‘In 2024, we already have two positions that have been approved and been funded and officers are being trained and they are scheduled to arrive. So we will have even more staffing above where we are now, which is the best we have ever been pre-pandemic,’’ he said.

Discover Destinations expands horizons

In his presentation, Umang Malbari, President, Discover Destinations, said that Discover Destinations was one of the few firms that retained its entire staff even during the peak pandemic period and now the company was rapidly expanding, even beyond the United States, where it has been present for over 13 years. He says that while in August, the company opened its first office in Canada in Toronto and within the next six months, it will also open an office in Mexico.

Umang Malbari, President, of Discover Destinations

Umang Malbari

‘‘The US, Canada and Mexico sector has been extremely strong in terms of the recovery for us, with the United States leading our vision.  A lot of you already know our key products like MICE, Destination Weddings, sports tourism and the fixed departures. Now, we have the 2024 T20 Cricket World Cup which will produce a big movement from India to the United States. If you have not started planning for that, now is the time to start. FIFA Football World Cup 2028 is also coming to the US, which is again a very popular sport,’’ Malbari said.

He added that Discover Destinations operated its own fleet of vehicles of varying sizes to cater to all kinds of demand.  “As India market is our core market and we wanted to continue expanding into this market. So, in order to do that, we understood the need for Hindi speaking drivers and we also have extra luggage capacity in our vehicles since Indians travel with at least two bags. And I know how connectivity is important for Indians, so all our vehicles are wi-fi equipped, providing 24×7 connectivity,’’ Malbari added.

The tourism networking event also featured presentations by several leading destination promotion organisations of the United States, including Destination DC, New York City Tourism + Convention, Experience Kissimmee, Disneyworld and Carnival Cruise Line.

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