WASHINGTON DC/MUMBAI: The Trump administration’s executive order that prohibits entry to citizens from a number of predominantly Muslim nations sparked controversy around the world, but it does not appear to have deterred tourists from South Asia.

Brand USA, the private-public organisation tasked with promoting the US as a tourist destination, has not witnessed a dip in tourist numbers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.

And it believes travellers from these countries are able to make a distinction between America and some of the political messages they hear.

“What we have seen is that travel, tourism and cultural messages transcend the politics and political messages,” said Tom Garzilli, CMO of Brand USA, in an interview with Campaign India.

“When you’re dreaming of taking your vacation wherever it is, you’re focusing on what the experience it will be. I think what is universally accepted about America regardless of any political landscape is that it’s a free, diverse place,” he added.

While Garzilli acknowledged there are people who are “not very engaged” with some of the political messaging, he stressed that potential tourists make a distinction between Americans and “the message they’re getting from the politics”.

“In the end, wherever you want to go, you focus on what your experience is going to be,” he said, as he explained that Indian and other South Asian consumers have responded well to Brand USA’s focus on storytelling about America’s epic landscape, its music and sheer range of experiences.

“We focus primarily on inspiring and storytelling,” he said. “We let the trade, airlines and tour operators sell the travel. Our job really is to inspire and educate.”

To that end, Brand USA has turned to the big screen and is soon to launch a 40-minute documentary film, narrated by Morgan Freeman, which is called “America’s Musical Journey”.

Due to be screened in four cities in India next month, it follows “National Park Adventure”, which highlighted the country’s great outdoors.

Garzilli also explained that the common bond of the English language has helped boost tourist numbers from India, as well as the fact that a number of Bollywood movies have been filmed in the US.

India is currently the 11th largest market for tourism to the US, he added, and is expected to overtake Australia in the next couple of years.

“Currently we get about 1.2 million tourists annually from India. We expect that to go to about 1.8 million over the next three years. It’s a very vibrant market and an important one for us.”

Sourced from Campaign India; additional content by WARC staff