Indians second biggest overseas visitors to the US this summer

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NEW DELHI: Despite a long wait time for visa interviews and sky-high airfares, Indians were the second biggest overseas visitors to the United States this summer. The US commerce department’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) has released its “inbound Surveyof International Air Travellers (SIAT)” for the second quarter of 2023 (April-June).At 26 lakh, Canada was the biggest source for visitors who flew in. For overseas visitors, “UK (9.7 lakh) was the top source market, followed by India (over 5 lakh), Germany (4.7 lakh), France (over 4 lakh) and Brazil (3.7 lakh),” NTTO says. Mexico, with which the US shares a land border like Canada, saw 7.2 lakh citizens flying to America this summer. This means, Indians were the third largest group of people flying into the US this summer.

Though on an overall basis, Canada and Mexico remain the top two source markets for visitors arriving by all modes of travel like air and land. India was at the fourth spot, next to the UK in overall terms. Travel industry insiders say the number of Indian visiting the US could have been much higher but for continuing visa delays. The wait period for B1/B2 visitor visa applicant in India is still about 1.5 years, though much lower than the almost three years it had touched last winter. The embassy has taken a series of steps to bring down the wait time. In Mumbai and Delhi, for instance, the B1/B2 interview wait time currently is 596 and 542 days, respectively, according to the US State Department website. In Chennai, the same is 526 days, Kolkata 539 days and Hyderabad 506 days.
In a first for India, the US Embassy had til about a month back processed over 10 lakh non-immigrant visa applications so far this year. This is almost 20% more than the numbers processed in pre-Covid 2019 and 2022. The embassy had last month said: “Indians now represent over 10% of all visa applicants worldwide, including 20% of all student visa applicants and 65% of all H & L category (employment) visa applicants.” Last year over 12 lakh Indians visited the US. Apart from the visa delays, airfares also remain very high. It is not uncommon for a one-way fare to be higher than return of pre-Covid times due to several factors like closure of Russian airspace due to which nonstop connectivity by US carriers to India has dropped. Air India has the highest number of nonstops between the two countries as it still overflies Russia, allowing it to take the shortest routes.

Meanwhile, about overseas visitors this summer (April-June, 2023) NTTO says: “New York (24 lakh) was the top state visited, followed by Florida (19 lakh), California (16 lakh), Nevada (5.2 lakh) and Texas (4.8 lakh).” Further NTTO data shows the average overseas visitor stayed for 19 nights and spent $1,933 while in the US.
“Estimated overall travel spending in the US was $14.9 billion, up 29.5% from the second quarter of 2022…. Vacation/holiday was the top main purpose of the trip, followed by visit friends/relatives and business. Shopping was the top leisure activity, followed by sightseeing, national parks/monuments, art galleries/museums and small towns/countryside,” it adds.
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