The number of Indians travelling to the United States dropped "significantly" in the first six months of 2017, with experts attributing the dip to important policy changes -- especially at home.
As per the latest figures released by US National Travel and Tourism Office, in the first six months (January to June), there was a drop of 12.9 per cent in the number of people travelling from India to the US.
The drop was a significant 18.3 per cent during the second quarter – months of April, May, and June.
"We've seen some softness in visitation (from India to US) in 2017, in first part of the year. We expect that to be just a short-term phenomenon," Brand USA's president and CEO Chris Thompson told PTI in an interview.
Thompson said the significant policy changes made by India in the last one year might have impacted the numbers.
"There are so many things that influence the intent or ability for people to travel. The demonetisation. The introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was also something that affects people's ability or intent to travel," Thompson said.
Thompson said he couldn't pinpoint the reason behind the dwindling numbers, but hoped that the "softness" be a short- term phenomenon.
Responding to a question on the impact of the general anti-immigrant sentiment in the US, the Brand USA CEO said the impact has been "negligible" in India.
"Brand USA carried out sentiment research in its top 11 markets, which includes India. President Donald Trump is being seen as friendly by our Indian friends and visitors," he said.
"The only issue that we've had probably may have contributed to some of the softness is there was more demand for visas than we had the ability to process," he said, adding that the issue has now been resolved.
In 2016 there were 1.17 million travellers from India who visited the US – contributing USD 13.6 million toward the US economy, which was a 14 per cent increase over the year prior.
According to the latest projections by the Department of Commerce, the US expects an additional 814,000 visitors from India by 2021 as compared to the 2016 figures, Thompson said.
"That will be a 72 per cent increase over 2016 number," he said.
The Brand USA chief said he was still "very optimistic and very bullish" about India.
More direct flights between the two countries would help in this increase as will the increasing cooperation between the two countries on travel and tourism, he said.