BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Photo by Vinod Devlia, Photography by Vinod.
Atlanta, GA, January 10, 2020: Even as Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson continues its run as the world’s busiest airport, Delta Airlines picked New York over its hub Atlanta, to revive its nonstop flight to India on December 22 this year. Direct flight services notwithstanding, the “Let’s Talk Tourism” event organized by the Consulate General of India in Atlanta, Tours Ltd. and the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (GIACC) on December 6 at the Sandy Springs City Hall shed light on the various travel opportunities between India and the U.S., including Georgia.
The event had Rusty Paul, Mayor of Sandy Springs, Brian Beall, Deputy Director, US Department of Commerce, Amanda Peacock, Tourism Division of Georgia, Robert Long, VP Economic Development, Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, André D. Fields, Political Director – Fair Fight Action and Amber Woolfolk, Business Strategist ,Fair Fight Action, representatives from Stacy Abrams office and Mr. Miheer Anand Nunkoo, Co – Founder of the Mauritius – Indo Chamber of Commerce, in attendance.
“This year we have focused on tourism,” said Anita E.J. Ninan, President, GIACC, as she elaborated on the mission of the chamber. The GIACC protects, develops, encourages, promotes and fosters trade, business, financial or professional interests and commercial relations between India and the United States, including specifically Georgia.
“Let me take you on a journey of Incredible India!” began Consul General Dr. Swati Kulkarni who delivered the keynote address highlighting the various tourist options including the luxurious Palace on Wheels, wellness and medical tourism, adventure and wildlife tourism, religious and heritage tourism. Initiatives by the Indian government to boost tourism, Dr. Kulkarni elaborated, included extending of e-visa facilities to over 165 countries, enabling issuance of e-medical, business, tourist, conference and medical attendant visas at several Indian ports of entry, and an update of Incredible India campaign with the launch of a new mobile app.
The event presented booths from popular tourist destinations including Hershey’s Chocolate World, Corning Museum of Glass, The Countryside of Philadelphia, Brandywine Valley and Velley Forge, GA Tourism and Delta Airlines.
The day-long event also featured a fashion show of Indian costumes from different Indian states choreographed by Hetal Mehta. One lucky winner took home two roundtrip tickets to Mumbai from Delta, which helped sponsor the event and Atlanta’s favorite photographer, Vinod Devlia won a four-day Disney trip.
“Well educated Indian workers have been vital to the county’s growing technology workforce,” noted Long, adding that Forsyth County will see its South Asian population grow from about 10 percent to a quarter of its residents in the next few decades. He also talked about the Atlanta Cricket Fields development, a matter of great interest to the Indian-American community.
“India is now on par with Japan in terms of visitor spending in the U.S., with some 1.4 million Indian visitors pumping $15 billion into the U.S. economy in 2018 on sightseeing, dining out, shopping, national parks, art galleries and more,” stated Beall, adding that there is tremendous potential where India’s opportunity to expand spending was concerned.
Prabha “Pabs” Raghava, CEO, Atlanta-based Tours Limited, in her address, said her company is planning to launch fixed tours to India, given the growing interest. She also spoke about the upcoming growth in future between India and the US. A record 1.4 million Indian tourists visited the United States in 2018, becoming one of the top groups of international visitors to America, according to a top US tourism official. After South Korea, India is the second-best performing market in terms of growth rate of spending by foreign tourists. With an expected six percent growth of Indian visitation on an average over the next five years, the future for tourism between the countries certainly seems optimistic.