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Indian Travellers Emerging as Key Market for America: Brand USA

According to Brand USA, India ranks 11th in international visitors and also represents the sixth biggest spender with $13.6 billion registered last year

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Brand USA
Sean Donohue, CEO, Dallas Fort Worth Airport Richard Fain, Chairman & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Christopher L Thompson, President & CEO, Brand USA. Wikimedia
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Sep 17, 2017: The Indian outbound traveller is now a much-coveted commodity around the world, as the country’s booming middle class seeks new destinations and emerges as a key market.

The Indian market has set a new record as 1.17 million tourists visited the US last year, according to Brand USA, the nation’s first public-private partnership to promote the United States as a travel destination.

“Brand USA has reached the million visitor mark from India, we expect much more growth. This year has seen our largest delegation of our Brand USA India mission with nearly 40 organisations, we actually had a waiting list of people wanting to tap the indian market. And that really shows the importance that India has,” Suzana Shepard, Manager Global Trade Development Brand USA, said during a branding event organized by Brand USA representative Sartha Global Marketing in New Delhi.

In February, Brand USA inaugurated the US-India travel and tourism partnership year in Delhi, led by the US Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO). The NTTO had forecast a 72 per cent increase in arrivals from 2015 through 2021.

While business travelers and family visits have been the norm so far, more Indians travel to less visited states and try new activities involving adventure and thrills.

“Indians are big consumers of adventure activities and this is exactly what we got in Nevada for them. The US is very much a road trip destination and there is so much to see, different landscapes, just like in India I guess but with a different decor, different people and a great melting pot of cultures,” said Claudia Vecchio, Director of the Department of Tourism & Cultural Affairs in Nevada.

According to Brand USA, India ranks 11th in international visitors and also represents the sixth biggest spender with $13.6 billion registered last year.

“There is really a great opportunity, only one per cent of the population has a passport and there is a growing middle class. It leaves room for a lot development,” Shepard said.

The increasing number of direct flights from India by national carrier Air India has also helped in catering to the tourists’ demand, the latest being Delhi-Washington DC. A couple of years ago, Air India also added San Francisco to its other non-stop flights to New York, Chicago and Newark. The carrier is said to be evaluating a direct flight to Los Angeles as well.

“With the non-stop service from India, San Francisco Airport has seen the traffic back and forth to India grow by 10 per cent, said Melissa Andretta, Director of International Marketing at San Francisco International Airport.

“The United States has always been a prime destination for Indian tourists, the country being home to an important Indian diaspora. We are seeing a lot of FITs coming, a lot of Indian weddings celebrated in Washington DC where an important Indian origin population lives. You can even celebrate Indian festivals like Diwali just like you would do in India as the city organises special decorations and festivities,” said Yi Lu, International Sales Manager at Destination DC.

On the recent visa restrictions on Indian travellers to the USA, Shepard said that they had no impact on the tourism to India and that Indians are warmly welcomed by many Americans. (IANS)

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US Immigration Agency Opens up on Female Mutilation

Female Mutilation should be stopped, opens up US Immigration Agency

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FILE - A man's T-shirt reads
FILE - A man's T-shirt reads "Stop the Cut," referring to female genital cutting or mutilation, during a social event advocating against the practice at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani. VOA

On a few days over the last year, federal agents approached travellers at several U.S. airports — flights bound for or connecting to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Frankfurt, Germany, and Dakar, Senegal.

The officials — part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — weren’t searching for contraband, or guiding bag-sniffing dogs. They were part of a smaller office within the agency that doesn’t focus on detaining and deporting people. Instead, they were handing out printed materials. They wanted to talk about female genital cutting.

JFK. Newark. Washington-Dulles. They targeted some of the country’s biggest international airports. In May, they roamed the gates in Atlanta — in the state where an Ethiopian man deported last year was believed to be the first person criminally convicted in the United States for FGC, sometimes referred to as female genital mutilation or FGM.

ICE declined a request to speak with the agents for details about how the initiative is carried out. There are brochures involved and, according to photos attached to the agency’s news releases, male and female agents chat with women about to board flights abroad.

FGC is a federal crime, the agency says it tells travellers. It can have consequences on child custody, and in immigration cases, too, even if the procedure is performed outside the U.S.

FILE - A badge reads "The power of labor aginst FGM" is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in Cairo, Egypt. VOA
FILE – A badge reads “The power of labor aginst FGM” is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in Cairo, Egypt. VOA

An agency spokeswoman told VOA via email that “people were happy to hear that’s why [Homeland Security Investigations, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security] was out there with materials. Some folks have never heard of it; many have but don’t understand it, the extent of the problem and how harmful the procedure and associated complications are. And some women had been subjected themselves to FGM.”

The project is modelled after one in the United Kingdom, an “awareness” campaign designed to talk about the risks of FGC and publicize the criminality of the procedure.

Removing part of the female genitals for nonmedical reasons is a practice concentrated in a few dozen countries, but performed on a smaller scale in many more, including the United States, where cases have been documented dating to as early as the 19th century. Last year, ICE investigators unravelled the Michigan case of a medical doctor performing FGC on young girls.

Reasons given

The justifications can include religious, cultural or pseudomedical rationales, like when U.S. doctors used the procedure to treat “hysteria.” Hundreds of thousands of women and girls in the U.S. are FGC survivors, or are vulnerable to it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mariya Taher, head of Sahiyo — a U.S. nongovernmental organization that advocates for an end to FGC — has spoken publicly about her experience surviving the procedure. Now, her organization is spearheading its own effort to publicize the stories of other survivors in the U.S., with a video project due out this month.

FILE - A counselor talks to a group of women to try to convince them that they should not have subject their daughters to female genital mutilation, in Minia, Egypt. VOA
FILE – A counselor talks to a group of women to try to convince them that they should not have subject their daughters to female genital mutilation, in Minia, Egypt. VOA

Does Taher think ICE agents handing out pamphlets and talking to families headed to visit relatives abroad, who are maybe considering having the procedure done on their daughters, or planning to have it done on that summer vacation, is an effective method?

“A large part of prevention is educating that it IS illegal … many people don’t recognize that it IS,” said Taher. She wants to know more about what information is being shared and how the conversations with travellers are happening before passing judgment on the project.

Unintentional effect?

“Any effort about the health, legal consequences, support services, I think is really helpful and beneficial,” Taher said. On the other hand, she noted, “I feel conflict. We’re trying to show that FGC happens across the board, regardless of ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status. … I’m a little afraid, if we’re just targeting certain countries, that we’re unintentionally misrepresenting whom FGC happens to.”

Also Read: “The Restorers” : Kenyan Girls Use Technology to Combat Female Genital Mutilation

Dozens of U.S. states have passed laws, in addition to the federal legislation, criminalizing FGC. In the Michigan case, doctors who performed the procedure on girls were charged, as well as four mothers who agreed to the medically unnecessary surgeries. (VOA)