Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Tourism

U.S. Sees India Surge to its Second Top Traveler Market

4 months ago

India was the U.S.’ s second top market for travelers outside of North America between April and June, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office’s data released Monday. Over 500,000 Indian travelers came to the America in the those three months, up from 392,000 and 498,000 for the same period in 2022 and pre-pandemic 2019, respectively.

In the first six months of 2023, over 800, 000 Indian travelers came to the U.S., making it America’s second largest’s non-North American market after the UK this year.

Nearly 60% of Indian travelers came to the U.S. for vacation, business or a conference in the first six months of this year, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. On average, Indian travelers spent $3,500 per trip in the U.S. The states they visited the most were California, New York and Texas.

In 2023, the U.S. is expected to welcome 1.4 million Indian travelers, which is 97% of their pre-pandemic volume, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. It will be the U.S.’s sixth top source overseas market in 2023, after the UK, France, Germany, Japan and Brazil. In 2019, India was the U.S. eighth-largest market.

It’s notable is that India has recovered so quickly and is rising as top source market for the U.S. despite long visa wait times at U.S. embassies, which suggests inbound travel from the country has been heavily restrained.

While the number of visitor visa approvals for Indians has “outperformed” 2019 levels, they remain over 400 days on average, said U.S. Travel Association CEO and President Geoff Freeman at Skift Global Forum. In New Delhi, for example, an Indian national would have to wait 542 days for a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy.

The visa wait times deter Indian travel into the U.S. “The message to that traveler is all but go away. This is anything but a welcoming environment,” said Freeman. 

U.S. destination marketing organizations have been investing in driving tourism from India. New York Tourism + Conventions, San Francisco Travel and Los Angeles Tourism have expanded their marketing efforts in India this year.

“We’ve invested heavily in India,” said NYC Tourism + Conventions CEO and President Fred Dixon at Skift Global Forum. “I was just there in January, we’ll be back again next January. We see a huge opportunity in the future from India. We’re excited about the airlift opportunities.”

Business Travel

Navan Moves Beyond Its Own Smart Card in Link-Up With Visa and Mastercard

9 months ago

Navan, the corporate travel agency previously called TripActions, rolled out a feature that enables companies to retain the benefits of their Visa and Mastercard corporate cards and still gain access to Navan’s automated expense management features.

Source: Navan

The new patent-pending feature, Navan Connect, saves enterprise clients and smaller companies, if applicable, from having to transition away from their corporate cards and their benefits to access Navan’s expense management features, the company said. “With the swipe of an enrolled card, expenses are automatically checked against company policy, categorized, and reconciled,” Navan states.

Previously, clients had to use a Navan Card to gain access to these features, launched three years ago, and this may have been a roadblock to Navan signing up more enterprise accounts. 

“With Navan Connect, we’re expanding this convenience and efficiency to the corporate cardsthat our customers prefer, harmonizing personal choice with corporate needs,” said Navan co-founder and CEO Ariel Cohen in a statement. “It’s not just a product; it’s our pledge to simplify expense management while enhancing flexibility and control for businesses.”

Navan stated it intends to add other corporate cards to Navan Connect.

 

Tourism

Indian Visa Delays Hit British Tourists

1 year ago

India’s High Commission is enforcing rules that require in-person visa applications for British citizens — a move that has caught out many in the travel industry.

Previously it turned a blind eye to visas that were being processed in batches, according to one specialist tour operator.

But on Oct. 7 the High Commission in the UK stated applicants must attend visa centers in person, as it had noticed “unauthorized agents and individuals are illegally charging fees and collecting India visa applications for submission at VFS Centres, misleading applicants and misrepresenting the services they can legally provide.”

High Commission of India, London

Source: High Commission of India, London

Thousands of travelers may now be forced to cancel their holidays, as appointments at visa centers are booked out in advance.

“There were a set of visa companies who would enter without an appointment, with 20 or 30 passports,” said Amrit Singh, co-founder and managing director of UK tour operator TransIndus. “They were being processed. All of a sudden, somebody higher up has realized that this is breaking the rules. So they’ve put a stop to it.”

She said TransIndus was now unable to accept new bookings until January. “The bigger problem is that we can’t take any fresh bookings. We couldn’t book a holiday for a client knowing there’s no opportunity for them to acquire a visa,” Singh said.

For clients traveling beyond January there was still time, but for those traveling between now and December it was “a real issue.”

“It was a casual arrangement (before) that the visa services carved out for themselves, with the local offices. I don’t think it was a formal arrangement sanctioned by the local High Commission,” Singh added.

The UK’s Association of Independent Tour Operators said 1,500 bookings through its own members worth $10 million were affected, according to reports.

According to The Times, VFS Global, which runs the processing bureaux, said the decision to insist travellers present in-person had been made due to the high number of administrative errors made by the third-party visa companies.

India currently offers 156 countries access to an online visa application process, which is similar to the U.S.’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It reintroduced e-visas in March this year, after Covid-19 cases decined. But UK and Canada nationals are currently excluded from this e-visa system, along with residents from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Lebanon and Pakistan.

However, as the UK government continues talks over a Free Trade Agreement with India, there are hopes the UK could be included, with “mobility and migration” under discussion on both sides.

One commentator has suggested that India’s decision to clamp down on visas was retaliation over UK home secretary Suella Braverman’s comments she had “concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India.”

“There is some discussion of a trade deal being finalized by Oct. 24. Perhaps the e-visa is a part of that negotiation,” Singh said.

In the meantime, individuals wanting an Indian visa can appoint another person to attend one of the nine visa processing centres in the UK, via a formal letter of authorization.

The U.S. is also facing delays issuing its own visas, which could prevent 6.6 million people from traveling there next year, resulting in a loss of $11.6 billion in spending, economists have warned.

Tags: india, uk, visa