Jason Pacheco is the Global Trade Development Consultant for Brand USA, the destination marketing organisation for the United States. A veteran of the travel and tourism industry for over 25 years, he has been appointed by Brand USA to oversee the global trade strategy for India. Between January and May this year, 606,841 Indians travelled to the US on a tourist visa -- a 4.04% increase from the same period last year. Nearly 42 per cent of the travellers are families including children below 18 years, while another 28 per cent are solo travellers.
In a conversation Pacheco chats about the importance of India and the changing nature of the Indian traveller. Excerpts:
How important is India as a market for you?
India has been a very important market for us over the last decade. But now, as you can see Prime Minister Modi and President Trump have formed new friendships between India and the US. As commerce with India increases, so will travel. We see new opportunities for growth.
1.4 million Indians visited the US last year, up from 747,000 in 2012. And we expect 1.9 million visitors in 2023. They spent $15.8 billion, up from $8.1 billion in 2012.
Indian tourists are number 10 in arrivals and number 5 in spending.
Which travel segments are you targeting?
When it comes to the traveller, we have kept a very open mind as to who our traveller is. It is no longer just people wanting to visit friends and family. Hawaii for instance, is some place people want to go to and they are searching for it online.
The 10 year multiple entry visa really helps. Our goal is to have you visit us once, visit us twice and if in those 10 years we can convince you to visit us a third time, that’s great.
When it comes to target segments, we have realised that we want to move our travellers around the US. We don’t want them visiting just the gateways to the US. We are very fortunate to have some key advocates for that. In the US we have around 178,000 Indian higher education students. So we have a small army of advocates and these are all over the country. When their families visit they like to travel around with them. Parents come to visit their children at least once during their years at college.
How has the Indian traveller changed over the years?
The VFR (visiting friends and family) segment has changed over the years. Earlier, travellers would come from India, visit their friends and families, stay with them and may be go out for a couple of days. Now that has changed. They visit for a couple of days and then go out for 5-6 days. They generally travel within the region on the recommendation of the family/friends. So we have seen regional travel pick up, which is wonderful.
Then the nuclear families have moved from only visiting a major city or two to doing road trips. Driving holidays are picking up. Rental car companies are doing a lot of investment here because it makes sense. A few luxury operators in India have started caravan driving. These take you through a major gateway and into the middle of the country.
Nature is very popular with Indians. We are seeing our national parks becoming popular destinations with Indian travellers. Besides nature, cityscapes and cultural experiences continue to do well. So the Indian traveler is not staying home and seeing only the iconic things. But is getting out there and doing a lot more.
Anything that you would recommend?
There are various journeys that you can take in the US. One of them is a food journey. Our Michelin star restaurants are coast to coast. Cities like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans have a great food scene. But now food comes in all areas. Oregon for example, has some of the best wine country and their organic, farm to fork food experiences are incredible.