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Tourism sector welcomes free visa scheme, seeks further extension

However, the industry believes that the scheme should be extended by up to 2 years against the stipulated deadline of March 31, 2022.  

Published: 29th June 2021 03:33 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th June 2021 09:22 AM   |  A+A-

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal (File Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  The government’s decision to issue free visas to 5 lakh tourists has been widely welcomed by India’s Covid-hit tourism sector.

However, the industry believes that the scheme should be extended by up to 2 years against the stipulated deadline of March 31, 2022.  

“After almost 15 months of the pandemic, the formal recognition that Indian Tourism, travel & hospitality is under stress and requires structured support is a first step and can be augmented. While the waiver of 5 lakhs tourist visas is a positive, it should be extended till  2023-24 or till at least all pre-pandemic tourist business is restored,” said Aashish Gupta, Consulting CEO, FAITH (Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India). 

But a senior executive at a leading travel booking platform, requesting anonymity, said that it is highly unlikely that foreign tourists would want to visit India anytime soon given the negative publicity we earned during the second wave. 

“Fear of the third wave, new virus variants, and the fact that our vaccines have still not been given clearance by international institutions remain big concerns for the sector. Free visa is an excellent idea but it should remain free of a deadline,” he said.

The free visa scheme will be applicable till March 31, 2022 or till 5 lakh visas are issued, whichever is earlier, the government said. 

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman also said that 2019 saw almost 1.1 crore foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) who collectively spent $30 billion on leisure and business. 

“The average daily stay for a foreign tourist in India is 21 days and their average daily spending per tourist is about $34 (Rs 2,400). Once (tourism) visa issuance resumes, the first 5 lakh tourists visas will be issued free of charge,” Sitharaman said.

Besides the free visa scheme, Sitharaman also announced a new loan guarantee scheme for 994 travel and tourism stakeholders (TTS, as recognised by the Tourism Ministry) and 10,700 regional- or state-level licensed tourist guides.

Rajiv Mehra, President of Indian Association of Tour Operators, also requested the government to consider giving a one-time financial grant to all recognised tour operators.



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