Tourism industry stakeholders in India are looking forward to the return of international visitors following the government’s recent decision to resume issuing tourist visas after 1.5 years of suspension due to the pandemic.
India began granting tourist visas to foreign travellers arriving on chartered flights from October 15, while visas for those on regular commercial flights will be granted from November 15.
The inbound stakeholders have been appealing to the government to reopen borders to international tourists and begin issuance of tourist visas with the pandemic situation improving and vaccination rates picking up. With international tourism flows at a standstill for 19 months, it has resulted in severe financial distress among tourism and hospitality players.
Dipak Deva, managing director, Travel Corporation of India, heartily welcomed the government’s announcement on the restart of tourist visa issuance.
“This, coupled with the earlier announcement of free visas for the first 500,000 inbound tourists, is a critical move that will give fillip and accelerate a much-needed revival of inbound tourism,” he said.
He noted that the sector plays a critical role in the country’s economy, with more than nine per cent contribution to India’s GDP and US$30 billion in net foreign exchange receipts, while also helping to create jobs.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier this year had announced once the tourist visa issuance for international travel is restarted, the first 500,000 tourists will be issued visas free of charge. The benefit that will be available only once per tourist will be applicable till March 31, 2022.
A section of tour operators said that with India reopening for international tourism, now is the time to reposition the destination to suit present demands.
“Tour operators have to now think of out-of-the-box ideas, keeping in mind the evolving demands of today’s travellers,” said Debjit Dutta, CEO of Impression Tourism Services.
“Traditionally, India has been promoted as a rich cultural destination. However, now tourists are more inclined towards natural and remote destinations. So, we have to highlight niche experiences like village tourism, keeping in mind best cleanliness and sanitisation practices.”
Dutta added that while the Incredible India campaign has been “extremely successful”, the campaign now needs to focus on highlighting less-traversed regional destinations like East India and North-east India.
He elaborated: “These regions offer rich natural experiences and are unexplored. Focusing on lesser-known destinations in international markets will also help us to draw more tourists besides ensuring that inbound tourist arrivals in India are not just confined to already popular destinations like Golden Triangle and Kerala.”