Modifications need to be done to the present e-visa scheme to entice more international travellers to visit.
While India’s e-visa facility was hailed as a potential game changer when it was launched in November 2014, the scheme has largely failed to live up to industry expectations more than a year into implementation.
The e-visa facility is currently available for citizens of 150 countries to apply for a tourist visa online prior to their visit to India, with entry through the designated 16 airports in the country.
Industry stakeholders are now calling for extensions to the 30-day window required for the e-visa application, as such short application times are restricting the growth of inbound tourist arrivals.
“The mandatory 30-day window is a dampener. A traveller has to wait until the last 30 days before starting his/her trip to apply for an e-visa,” said Kapil Goswamy, founder and managing director, Trans India Holidays. “That doesn’t make much sense.”
He added: “The time frame needs to be increased to 180 days or at least to 90 days. E-visas should also not be restricted to a single entry as many travellers tend to visit other destinations in the Indian subcontinent like Nepal, Bhutan or Sri Lanka as side trips from India, thereby requiring multiple entries.”
Pronab Sarkar, president, Indian Association of Tour Operators, said: “We have spoken to the ministry of tourism to extend the 30-day window for the application of the e-visa. We are trying to extend this period to 180 days, with multiple entries and
stay extended to 60 days, so that tourists can plan their visit to India well in advance.”
According to the statistics from India’s Ministry of Tourism, a total of 434,927 tourists arrived on e-visas from January to May 2016, up 293 per cent from 110,657 tourists during the same period in 2015.
It appears that Indian immigration authorities have not able to keep up with the greater adoption of the e-visa facility.
Vijay Wanchoo, senior executive vice president and general manager at The Imperial New Delhi, commented: “There seems to be an insufficient number of e-visa facilitation desks at airports. Clearance can take 10 minutes per person for the fortunate few and extend up to four hours in certain cases.”
Furthermore, an increased usage of the e-visa facility among foreign visitors does not necessarily translate into higher international arrivals into India, said trade members.
Goswamy said: “It’s not as if thousands more tourists have suddenly decided to travel to India because getting a visa is now easier. In fact, it is the overall perception of the destination. India’s infrastructure and safety have to be improved to draw more international tourists.”
Some trade members, however, remain cautiously optimistic.
“Foreign tourist arrivals have shown a growth of 11.3, 12.1 and 10.7 per cent in February, March and April 2016 respectively, which is comparatively higher than last year. The e-visa has eased the process for tourists who intend to visit India, as they can easily apply while sitting in their home,” said Sunil Sikka, head – marketing & business development, WelcomHeritage Hotels.
This article was first published in TTG Asia, August 5, 2016 issue, on page 29. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe.