Tourism officials plan to seek visitors in India
By Claudio Mendonça
India's 1.1 billion residents are the next target for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, whose officials are to visit New Delhi and Mumbai, formerly Bombay, next year to lay groundwork to lure tourists to Miami.
They plan to meet India's industry officials in February travel shows. A passage to India could also follow a bureau visit to China in early April, when Florida will have an exhibit at the Beijing International Tourism and Travel market.
"With six cities with over 10 million people, India is one of the markets emerging with tremendous potential," said David Whitaker, bureau senior vice president of marketing, who said the marketing organization is considering attending two trade shows. "We won't be participating in trade shows. We are still researching and evaluating the potential. At first, these will be exploratory trips."
The arrival of multinational corporations in India, Mr. Whitaker said, is creating a huge working middle and executive class. These new jobs, especially in call centers, are triggering a great potential market of possibly 5 million outbound tourists.
Bangalore, he said, is India's Silicon Valley, with numerous technology companies making their way to south-central India.
According to the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook, India's per capita gross domestic product equals $3,100, 154th globally.
"Tourism, however, does not thrive on potential alone," Mr. Whitaker said. "We have to establish a relationship."
In addition to Miami's nightlife and leisure destination, he said, Asians see in Miami the ideal location between Europe, South America and a hub for tourism and business to South America.
Outbound tourism from India to the US is growing to the point that Continental Airlines started flying non-stop from New Delhi to Newark, NJ, said Jadip Ahluwalia, executive director of the Indo-American Alliance of Chambers of Commerce in Houston.
The Mumbai-based Taj Group, one of India's largest hospitality organizations and owner of the Taj Mahal in Mumbai, he said, is slowly crawling into the US market. Recently, the Taj Group purchased the Pierre Hotel in New York.
He did not discard the possibility of Taj venturing into the Miami market.
"I can't speak on the behalf of the hotel," Mr. Ahluwalia said, "but the truth is that from a business perspective, business goes where the money is."