Monday, 20 September 2021 | PNS | New Delhi
5L visitors to get free visas in bid to help tourism, aviation sectors
Amid a decline in Covid cases in the country, India may soon reopen its doors for foreign tourists for the first time in one-and-a-half year. The first five lakh foreign tourists will be issued visas free of cost in an attempt to revive the tourism, hospitality, and aviation sectors hit by the pandemic since March 2020, when a nationwide lockdown was announced.
Senior Home Ministry officials are in talks with the stakeholders to decide the expected date and modalities for reopening of the borders for foreign tourists. A formal announcement is expected to come within the next ten days. The decision is due to the declining Covid-19 cases in the country.
The officials said free visa to the tourists will be issued till March 31, 2022 or the issuance of five lakh visa, whichever is earlier. The total financial implication for this would be Rs 100 crore. “The free visa move is expected to incentivise short-term tourists visiting India,” officials said.
“The cost for a month-long e-tourist visa is country-specific but is around $25. A year-long multiple entry e-tourists visa charge is around $40,” it further reported. The e-tourists visa remained suspended from March 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.
The Home Ministry officials also said the tourists will be allowed with certain conditions — like those vaccinated will be allowed to enter the borders. The reopening will take place in a phased manner to understand the response and implications of the move, another official said. India is among many countries that have started opening up for tourists.
Scheduled international passenger services have been suspended in India since March 23, 2020, due to the pandemic. But special international flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May 2020 and under bilateral “air bubble” arrangements with select countries since July 2020.
India has formed air-bubble pacts with around 28 countries, including the US, the UK, the UAE, Kenya, Bhutan, and France. The Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Sunday urged his Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud to resume direct flights between India and Saudi Arabia, which remains suspended owing to the pandemic.
UAE has relaxed norms for travellers from India.
As per the Government data, foreign tourist arrivals during the period January — April, 2021 were 376083 as compared to 23,57,877 in January – April 2020 registering a negative growth of — 84.0 per cent.
The percentage share of Foreign Tourist Arrivals in India during April 2021 among the top 15 source countries was highest from the USA (26.85 per cent), followed by Bangladesh (15.65 per cent), Afghanistan (6.92 per cent), UK (5.87 per cent), Nepal (4.59 per cent) Canada (4.27 per cent), Iraq (2.99 per cent), Portugal (2.40 per cent), Germany (1.42 per cent), Russian Fed (1.41 per cent) Maldives (1.39 per cent), France (1.33 per cent), Sudan (1.21 per cent), Korea (Rep.)(1.18 per cent), and Australia (1.02 per cent).
The percentage share of Foreign Tourist Arrivals in India during April 2021 among the top 15 ports was highest at Bengaluru Airport (29.96 per cent), followed by Mumbai Airport (17.48 per cent), Ahmedabad Airport (15.72 per cent), Delhi Airport (9.21 per cent), Cochin Airport (4.91 per cent), Chennai Airport (4.04 per cent), Hyderabad Airport (3.34 per cent), Lucknow Airport (2.40 per cent), Bhavnagar Seaport (2.37 per cent), Kolkata Airport (2.11 per cent), Calicut Airport (1.41 per cent), Amritsar Airport (1.35 per cent), Kakinada Seaport (1.32 per cent), Dabolim (Goa) (0.91 per cent), Mangalore Airport (0.72 per cent).