Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has given a push to the electronic travel authorisation plan (e-Visa) through the Union Budget, India’s ‘visa-on-arrival’ scheme saw a record increase of 98.9 per cent last month.
A large part of the visa-on-arrival scheme, which is extended to 12 countries, has attracted mostly business travellers from South Korea, Japan and Singapore. In June 2013, the number had risen by 23 per cent and in the year before that, by about 12 per cent. In June this year, the facility was availed by over 2,000 travellers.
In order to further promote the visa-on-arrival facility, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech on Thursday had said e-Visa would be introduced in a phased manner at nine airports in India where necessary infrastructure would be put in place within the next six months.
The travel sector has welcomed the announcement as it will ease the archaic visa norms. “Given the rapid evolution of global travel dynamics, key initiatives like eVisa will create viable impetus, vital towards building critical mass-momentum and infusing much-needed demand into the under-leveraged inbound sector,” said Madhavan Menon, managing director, Thomas Cook India.
Under the proposed electronic travel authorisation, foreign travellers will get an e-visa online within five days of applying. The e-Visa document will have to be produced in India to ensure a safe passage. “It will help in expanding the footprint of the foreign tourist beyond the key metros, while facilitating an easy visa procuring process,” said Vikram Malhi, managing director, Expedia Asia.
India gets less than seven million foreign tourists a year and is ranked 41st in terms of inbound tourism globally, according to data by the United Nations World Tourism Organization. In the next three to five years, India wants to receive 12 million foreign tourists for which the e-Visa facility is expected to provide a major boost. “It will give us an edge over neighbouring competitors and also create an immediate window of opportunity for the upcoming inbound season. The multiplier effect on allied businesses will augur well for the economy as a whole,” Menon added.
Tourism players are also expecting an impetus with the Budget proposal to create five tourist circuits for which Rs 500 crore has been allocated. The BJP had said in its election manifesto that it would create 50 tourist circuits. The Budget also noted that the “services provided by Indian tour operators to foreign tourists in relation to a tour wholly conducted outside India is being taken out of the tax net”.
Visa-on-arrival up 99 per cent in June