India mulls e-tourist visa facility restart

The Indian government is planning to resume the country’s e-tourist visa facility and scheduled international flights in phases, with priority given to countries that have an air bubble agreement with India.

Speaking at the inauguration of India Tourism Mart last week, Harsh Vardhan, union minister for health and family welfare, said that the Ministry of Health is in support of the Ministry of Tourism’s efforts to revive international tourism into India.

India may soon resume e-tourist visa facility, signalling a firmer move towards international tourism recovery

Some of the countries India has struck up air bubble agreements include Bahrain, Bangladesh, Canada, Germany, Japan, Maldives, Nepal, Oman, UAE, UK and the US.

Indian tour operators welcome the announcement, saying that the e-tourist visas will trigger a revival of inbound tourism.

E M Najeeb, chairman of ATE Group of Companies, told TTG Asia that travel restrictions in markets like Europe could encourage travellers from the region to stay on longer in India, to make the hassle worth it. “They could stay for one or two months, and opt for wellness treatments besides going for sightseeing,” he said.

Industry confidence has been climbing since the start of the government’s vaccination roll-out last month.

Najeeb said the decreasing number of Covid-19 positive cases in India, a successful vaccination drive, as well as local tourism players abiding by government health and safety protocol will work together to give international travellers confidence in India.

Some tour operators are predicting that Thailand and Japan will emerge as important source markets for India as tourism recovery begins.

“Considering the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in markets like Europe, we may not immediately see tourists coming from there. So, we need to look at Asian markets, especially those with a significant Buddhist population. It is a good time to promote our Buddhist circuit in such markets. We also need to ensure the highest cleanliness standards in our tourist destinations so that tourists planning to visit India feel confident,” said Lally Mathews, managing director, Divine Voyages.

Mathews, who is also running for the post of president in the forthcoming elections of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, has given highest priority to restarting e-visa in his election manifesto.

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