India begins issuing tourist visa; reopnes to foreign tourists after a long hiatus

India begins issuing tourist visa; reopnes to foreign tourists after a long hiatus

India is all set to welcome foreign tourists after a long gap of 18 months.  From Friday (15 October) the country has begun granting tourist visas. For now, tourist visas are being granted to only those foreigners who are coming to India through chartered flights. Tourist visas to those coming on regular flights will be granted from November 15.

Words by Prem Kumar 

Inbound tourism is the most important segment of the tourism sector in many countries including India. It is also the biggest victim of the Covid-19 pandemic. In India, inbound tourism has been suspended for about two years due to the pandemic, badly affecting the overall tourism in the country. In the absence of inbound tourism, the country’s inbound tour operators have been facing existential crisis since the onset of the pandemic, many are already bankrupt. But now after this prolonged hiatus, there is genuine hope for its revival in the country. India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has begun granting fresh Tourist Visas to foreigners coming to India with effect from Friday, October 15.

It is worth mentioning that in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, India had suspended last year all visas granted to foreigners. Later on, the government allowed foreigners to avail any kind of Indian visa other than tourist visas for entry and stay in India. The central government had also imposed other restrictions on international travel including suspending scheduled internationals flights between India and other countries. These restrictions completely halted the country’s inbound tourism, creating severe financial distress in the tourism industry.

The suspension of tourist visas along with the ban on scheduled international flights has been the major deterrent for India’s inbound tourism. For a long time, stakeholders of the industry have been making representations to the MHA to start issuing tourist visas also and allow foreign tourists to come to India.  Finally, after consulting major stakeholders like the ministry of health & family welfare, ministry of external affairs, the ministry of civil aviation, the ministry of tourism and state governments, and keeping in mind the current COVID-19 situation, the MHA has relaxed curbs placed on visa and decided to begin granting of fresh Tourist Visas for foreigners coming to India through chartered flights with effect from October 15, 2021. The Home Ministry will start issuing fresh tourist visas to foreign tourists travelling to India by flights other than chartered aircraft with effect from November 15. The MHA has asserted that the foreign tourists visiting the country and carriers bringing them into India and other stakeholders at landing stations will have to adhere to all COVID-19 protocols and norms notified by India’s Ministry of Health & Family Welfare from time to time.

The resumption of inbound tourism will bring much-needed relief to the country’s tourism industry, especially for those engaged in inbound tourism activities such as inbound tour operators. The resumption of inbound tourism will also boost demand for hotels that are currently able to serve only the domestic market.

The industry, which was desperately asking for the resumption of issuing tourist visas, has welcomed the move. “We look forward to a healthy start to inbound tourism, and given no third wave hope all countries encourage visitation,” said Nakul Anand, Chairman of FAITH, the umbrella body of the all major association of India’s travel, tourism and hospitality industry.

Now the tourism industry hopes that government will soon allow the resumption of the scheduled international flights between India and other countries to further boost inbound tourism.

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