India starts process to extend visa on arrival to 40 nations

The objective is to make India a more tourist friendly nation and promote foreign exchange earnings

October 08, 2013 3:55 IST | India Infoline News Service
India has agreed to initiate the process of extending visa on arrival facility to 40 nations. Among the nations include the US, the UK, Canada, Brazil, Australia, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The Planning Commission on Monday had called a high-level meeting of various ministries and National Security Advisor to study the feasibility of the move.

The objective is to make India a more tourist friendly nation and promote foreign exchange earnings.

The government’s move to extend Visa on Arrival to over 40 countries is expected to help inbound tourism in a big way.

In the last three years the Centre has granted Visa on Arrival to 11 countries and this has had a significant impact on our inbound numbers from these 11 countries. For the period January to August 2013, tourists availing of Visa on Arrival has gone up by 29.4 per cent, indicating that such a policy is the need of the hour to boost inbound tourism. 

While the Government has indicated its broad in-principle approval to the measures this week, no specific details or implementation timelines have as yet been notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs / Ministry of External Affairs and other agencies in this regard, SM Shervani, FHRAI President, said.

Visa on Arrival facility to tourists from UK, USA, France and Germany which is our traditional source markets and contribute to close to 40 per cent of our inbound arrivals will have a very positive impact both from a point of earning more foreign exchange but also help in the development of our inbound tourism whose share is less than one per cent of the total worldwide arrivals, Peter Kerkar, Director, Cox & Kings, said.

With the slew of progressive measures now being actively contemplated, the Union Government has firmly signaled its intent to move towards a more liberalized visa regime which offers a seamless and differentiated mechanism to encourage and facilitate foreign tourist travel to the country.

The other significant move to increase the number of airports that will be allowed to issue Visa on Arrival is welcome as secondary  airports such as Goa, Gaya and Chandigarh receive international flights tourists who want to avail Visa on Arrival can fly directly to these secondary points, without the additional burden of landing in metro airports and then travelling to these destinations, Kerkar added.

When India is confronting a general economic downturn and widening current account deficit, we have an unmissable strategic opportunity to leverage the tourism sector's intrinsic potential to spur job creation and boost our foreign exchange earnings. Therefore, we request the Home Ministry and other agencies to ensure that the requisite infrastructure, in terms of technology and personnel is expeditiously put in place, so that this welcome initiative can be operationalised at the earliest, Shervani further said.

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