Foreign tourists could soon make a quick dash to Agra to see the Taj Mahal or to Jaipur for a glimpse of the Hawa Mahal if they plan their transit time in India to allow such visits.
The government is considering relaxing visa rules with the tourism ministry proposing a transit visa — for 48 to 72 hours — to encourage these foreign tourists to plan a quick stopover in India. The scheme could be implemented initially in Delhi and Mumbai in a few months.
According to sources, the ministry has had discussions with the MHA. The move is expected to boost foreign tourist arrivals and make travellers, who would otherwise spend only a few hours in the country, stay for 2-3 nights. “We hope to encourage leisure and business travellers headed for southeast Asia or our neighbourhood to prolong their stay in India,” a tourism ministry source said.
Despite its rich culture and heritage, India commands a modest 0.6% of the world’s travellers. According to data available with the tourism ministry, the number of foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) crawled up from 63.09 lakh in 2011 to 66.48 lakh in 2012 — a paltry growth of 5.4%.
‘Boon for industry’
India has earned Rs 94,487 crore in foreign exchange earnings from tourism in 2012 as compared to Rs 77,591 crore in 2011 — an increase of 21.8%.
Indian Association of Tour Operators (IOTA) president Subhash Goyal said the proposal of a transit visa has been a long-standing demand of the domestic travel industry. “There’s a lot of transit movement of business travellers and tourists in India. There are thousands of passengers such as defence personnel and paramedical staff for Afghanistan who transit in India. If we offer them a transit visa so that they can go to Agra from Delhi or Goa from Mumbai, there will be a boom in our hospitality industry business. A large segment of business travellers headed for Nepal and Sri Lanka can also be tapped,” he said.
The transit business India wants to tap goes to Dubai and southeast Asia, according to travel industry stakeholders.
February 3, 2013