More Indians have been travelling abroad, data showed on Friday, and the US is trying to accommodate the new tourism boom by opening two new consulates in the South Asian country.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in Washington this week on an official state visit, meeting numerous executives on Friday as he seeks more investment in his country.
The US is also working to make it easier for Indians to live and work in the country.
In 2022, India became Asia’s highest source of international travellers for the first time, according to tourism consultancy IPK International.
International travellers from India last year exceeded those from China, South Korea and Japan.
And the US tourism sector has taken note. The US will open two new consulates in India in the cities of Bengaluru and Ahmedabad, according to a joint statement from President Joe Biden and Mr Modi.
The leaders directed officials to identify additional mechanisms to enable travel for business, tourism, and professional and technical exchange between the two countries, according to the statement.
For the first five months of 2023, travel from India to the US has exceeded pre-pandemic volumes, according to data from the US Department of Commerce National Travel and Tourism Office. Other Asian countries are lagging behind, particularly China.
India last year ranked third among overseas travellers visiting the US, up from eighth in 2019, Reuters reported.
US embassies and consulates in India have issued 44 per cent more non-immigrant visas in 2023 than in the same period in 2019 and are on course to process more than one million visas this year, Reuters quoted a State Department representative as saying.
“Our consular teams have been making a huge push to process as many visa applications as possible in India,” said the representative. “This is a top priority for our government.”
The outlook for the rest of the year looks promising. Flight bookings from India to the US for the last quarter of 2023 are 26 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to ForwardKeys, a travel data firm.
The primary bottleneck for travellers has been waiting to get a first-time visitor visas. Wait times were 337 days in early April down from 669 days in mid-March, according to the US Travel Association.
Air India recently launched non-stop service from Mumbai to New York and San Francisco and from Bengaluru to San Francisco.
“The number of people of Indian origin who have settled down in the US have been increasing day-by-day for studies or employment. So the demands of their parents, in-laws and families to go has also been increasing,” said Rajiv Mehra, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators.