To also set up chapters in mini-metros
KAHINI CHAKRABORTY – Mumbai
The Visit USA Committee (VUSACOM) India Chapter was formally launched by John Bryson, secretary of commerce, US in Mumbai recently. With the main objective to increase the number of tourist arrivals from India to the US, the committee is a ‘Not-For-Profit’, Section 25 company which will function under the support and guidance of the US Consulate. VUSACOM is supported by Richard M Rothman, US commercial consul, US Commercial Service, the US Consulate General and his office. As part of its future plans, the committee is looking at launching an e-commerce platform in order to create a B2B platform for its members in India and vendors in USA to interact and transact with each other. The framework for the same is being worked upon currently. It has also launched its website www.vusa.in. Since its announcement, the committee has received membership requests from over 300 travel organisations, including airlines, tour operators, hotel chains and DMCs. The committee is looking at achieving 1,000 membership base by December 2012. It also plans to attend the international POW WOW event to be held in Los Angeles, California on April 21-25, 2012.
At the formal launch speech Bryson said, “It is a great honour to be here to officially launch Visit USA committee in India. This is a great platform and has enormous potential in the future. I am pleased to announce that in 2011 there were over 6,60,000 visitors from India to the US. The total spending by Indians travelling to the US was US$ 4.6 billion last year, up 15 per cent from the year before. With the help of Visit USA Committee, we expect this trend to continue. The travel and tourism between our two countries is multi-faceted and it is imperative to establish person to person relationship. The US commerce department is working closely with America’s travel and tourism industry to encourage more travel from countries such as India to the US. This is part of a larger plan called our National Travel and Tourism Strategy – which I, along with Ken Salazar, interior secretary, USA will be delivering that to President Barack Obama in the coming weeks. Furthermore, we have launched BrandUSA, a public-private-partnership – which you can find online at thebrandusa.com. I am also pleased to announce that the US administration is now taking other concrete actions to help more people from India visit America and get more people. The step taken by the US state department includes the recently announced private programme which will allow certain applicants to get visas with need basis without being interviewed or pushed by the US consul officers. This will make it easier for Indians to visit the US for business and meetings while also take time out to enjoy the tourism offerings and cultural avenues of the country. We will continue to find more ways to make travel from India to the US as simple as possible.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the formal launch, Ashwini Kakkar, president, VUSACOM India said, “We are honoured to have secretary John Bryson inaugurate the Indian Chapter of VUSACOM in Mumbai. India currently enjoys 12th position of visitor arrivals to the US and we want to bring this number to single digits. We are keen to kick off the activities we have planned.” The committee will start enrolling members from mid April 2012. The key requirements will be that the travel agent/tour operator should have been in business for two years and should be either a members of IATA/TAAI/TAFI and should be having international outbound travel business.
Apart from this, the committee will also organise a series of VISA/awareness roadshows in co-ordination with the US commercial services and consulate, launch US specialist programme by July this year, facilitate communication with consular section on MICE travel, educate the travel industry and promote newly popularised US destinations, facilitate B2B meetings between tour operators/travel agents in India with US-based suppliers like hoteliers, DMCs, airlines, etc. The committee has plans for aggressive expansion on a pan-India basis and will be setting up chapters in mini-metros like Jaipur, Nagpur, Surat, Coimbatore, Chandigarh. Manoj Gursahani, vice president, VUSACOM India said, “We should roll this out by June 2012 and we expect to have more than 50 members in each chapter. Small and medium size travel companies are likely to gain tremendously by teaming up with VUSACOM.”