NEW DELHI: Foreign tourists can now directly fly to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as the government has designated Port Blair airport as an authorised immigration check post for entry into and exit from India with valid travel documents.
The decision came more than a month after the killing of an American national by members of a highly protected tribe in one of the islands of the Union territory.
"In pursuance of sub-rule (b) of rule 3 of the Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950, the central government hereby designates Port Blair airport of Union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands as an authorised immigration check post for entry into/exit from India with valid travel documents for all classes of passengers," a home ministry notification said.
In another notification, the home ministry appointed the Superintendent of Police, CID, the Andaman and Nicobar Police, as the "civil authority" for the immigration check post at Port Blair airport with effect from December 31, 2018.
The Andamans, under global spotlight after the killing of an American national, has emerged as one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the country receiving on an average four lakh tourists, including several thousand foreigners, annually.
According to data available with the home ministry, more than 16 lakh tourists visited the Andaman and Nicobar Islands between 2015 and October this year to enjoy the natural beauty, beaches, flora and fauna and historically-significant landmarks in around 38 inhabited islands out of the 572 islets.
The archipelago has received 4,02,393 tourists, including 11,818 foreigners, till October, 2018 while it received 4,87,229 tourists, including 15,310 foreigners in 2017.
In 2016, as many as 4,00,019 tourists, including 15,467 foreigners, had visited the Andamans and in 2015, a total of 3,11,358 tourists, including 14,674 foreigners, had gone to the union territory, the data revealed.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a union territory and comes under the administrative control of the home ministry.
It was in the news in the wake of killing of John Allen Chau, 27, by members of the reclusive and endangered Sentinelese tribe in North Sentinel Island in November.
The archipelago has been inhabited for several thousand years, at the very least.
The earlier archaeological evidence so far documented goes back some 2,200 years.
However, indications from genetic, cultural and linguistic isolation studies point to habitation going back 30,000 60,000 years, well into the Middle Palaeolithic period, according to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands tourism department.
The Ross Island was renamed as Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Dweep, the Neil Island as Shaheed Dweep and the Havelock Island as Swaraj Dweep.