JAIPUR, India – India’s Tourism Ministry is in talks with the Ministries of Home Affairs and External Affairs to extend the visa-on-arrival facility at more airports like Bangalore and Hyderabad to visitors from about 15 countries.
“We have proposed to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs to extend the visa-on-arrival facility to be available at more international airports in India including Bangalore and Hyderabad which would cover tourists from about 15 more countries under its ambit,” Additional Director General (MR), Tourism Ministry, A.K Gupta said on the sidelines of the Great India Travel Bazaar (GITB) 2013 function.
Both the ministries are examining the proposal and its feasibility, he added.
An initiative of the Tourism Ministry, Department of Tourism (Rajasthan) and industry chamber FICCI, GITB has been successfully organised in Jaipur since 2008. It is a pan-India international platform for inbound tourism.
Currently, the visa-on-arrival scheme is available at four international airports – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. It covers citizens of over 11 countries including Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines and Myanmar.
The visa-on-arrival scheme has been a huge success and contributed to increase in the number of tourists from these countries, Gupta said.
Last year, the Tourism Ministry had said the government was in the final stages of consultations on allowing visas on arrival to citizens of another 10 countries, including Germany, France and Russia.
According to a FICCI Knowledge Paper on Inbound tourism ( released in February 2013), the number of travel visa on arrival tourists registered a growth of 54.6 per cent as compared to the same period in 2012.
Contribution of tourism in economic growth
To give a boost to the tourism sector in the country, the government had launched ‘Incredible India’ campaign which resulted into a rise in the flow of foreign tourists into India and earnings.
“Earlier, tourism was considered as a luxury activity but now it is an important source of economic development worldwide. Many economies have been transformed through tourism, particularly the opportunities it provides in employment generation and poverty alleviation,” Gupta said.
As per the paper, the foreign tourist inflows in India are predicted to grow at an average annual rate of 8.8 percent in the coming decade.
In 2012, the growth in inbound tourists was 5.4 percent to 6.65 million compared to 2011.
Recently, the government has set a target of attracting 12 million international tourists by 2016.
Further, the paper stated that the rising Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) flows are clearly a function of the stellar growth performance of the Indian economy in the new century.
Foreign exchange earnings (FEE) from tourism grew by 19.8 percent in rupee terms in February, 2013 as compared to February last year.
In the recent years, India has signed a number of FTAs with Japan, Korea and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and is negotiating with others including the European Union.
The government has also launched a training programme, “Hunar Se Rozgar Tak”, to create employable skills in the interested youth who are in the age group of 18-28 years, he said.
“The programme translates as from skill to employment.
Under this, short training programmes for six to eight weeks are organised to enhance the skills of youth in various sectors of tourism and hospitality,” Gupta said.
This programme is being conducted not only by institutes under the control of central and state governments but also through classified hotels and other institutions, he added.