US Inc tour to catch Indian shoppers

Last Updated: Sun, Sep 16, 2012 19:55 hrs

McDonald’s is not the only American company to cater to the vegetarian preference of Indians.

PIER 39, a dining, shopping and entertainment arcade in San Francisco, known for its seafood spread, is planning to include ‘Jain vegetarian’ food at its restaurants and in menu cards. The decision was based on feedback from the Indian tour industry, said Kathy Paver, senior vice-president of marketing at PIER 39. The latter has been a must-visit for vacationers after Hollywood blockbuster Forrest Gump featured Bubba Gump Shrimp, a restaurant there.

Paver was among the 50-odd delegates representing 30 leading American companies in tourism, hospitality and retail chains who were criss-crossing Indian cities all of last week to woo the Indian traveller. The delegates were in the country as part of Brand USA, a public-private initiative to hardsell America as a tourist destination.

Why & how
They have reason to promote America in India. The data shows visitors from India spent $4.4 billion in the US in 2011, an increase of nearly 10 per cent from 2010. India is 10th in the list of biggest spenders in the US. Canada tops at $24 bn, followed by Japan at $14.8 bn, the UK at $12 bn, Mexico $9.2 bn, Brazil $8.5 bn, China $7.7 bn, Germany $6.3 bn, and France and Australia at $5 bn.

The campaign that this group is planning to unleash in the Indian market to tap the potential of the shopper in this country even features President Barack Obama rooting for America as the place to go.

Macy’s, a leading American retailer, was part of the team. Brian Chuan, its director, tourism marketing and development, told Business Standard the company was already working on giving better discounts to Indians shopping at any of Macy’s 800 outlets in the US. “Indians love to shop and they are very familiar with our brand,” said Chuan.

The company is trying to look for exclusive partners in the Indian tourism sector, to offer more than a standard discount of 10 per cent, which can be passed on to the travellers. It is also planning to prepare personal shopping programmes for tourists.

Also, Madame Tussauds is talking of setting up a temporary wax exhibit in an Indian city some time next year. The initiative is meant to popularise the Tussauds brand among Indians, which is expected to draw more numbers at its international hubs, including the one in New York. Yaniv Didi, representing Madame Tussauds New York, said, “We want Indian tour operators to work with us directly, so that we are able to build brand awareness and work out the best plan for the travellers.”

Among the hospitality chains in the Brand USA team, InterContinental Hotels Group’s account director, leisure sale & service, Tony Chawla, said the company would launch two new luxury properties next year, in the US and China market. This could, perhaps, attract many affluent Indians. While China will get eight hotels under a brand called ‘Hualuxe’, the US will have wellness hotels under ‘Even’. It is aiming to have as many as 180 properties in India by 2016-17, up from nine now.

Another hotel chain, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, is targeting Indian tourists as well for its high-end properties in the US. When asked about foreign investor confidence in the India market, Tekla Maira, its director, global sales, told this newspaper, “All eyes are on this country. India still looks like a healthy market.”

Las Vegas, the American city known for its 24x7 casinos and glitzy hotels is not drawing as many Indian tourists as the other coast. Therefore, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority director (international sales) Rafael Villanueva was in India to educate tour operators on what the city can offer. “We are looking for growth from India,” he said.

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