Easy visa a game changer for Indian tourism

Easy visa a game changer for Indian tourism
By admin

India’s latest change made to visa facilitation is a “game changer” for the country’s tourism industry, according to Secretary for Tourism Dr Lalit K Panwar.

Speaking to Travel Today in India, Panwar and the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, Dr Mahesh Sharma, said the ease of obtaining a visa was highlighted as a key tool to make it more appealing to visit India.

Panwar said the government is looking at “casting the net wider” and allowing more countries to enter on an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) visa.

Currently, 43 countries, including Australians, are able to obtain an ETA when traveling to India, which requires a simple process of filling in forms online and waiting just 72 hours, often less, for a response.

The countries were chosen on the basis of India’s relations with these countries, according to Minister Sharma, who said the government is open to discussions about increasing the range of countries accepted.

“Within 15 days of launching the ETA, we had received 9000 visa applications online,” Panwar said, adding that this was a significant boost from the average of 3000 applications via the traditional visa method.

India’s foreign tourist arrivals have experienced a growth from 5.8 million in 2010 to 6.97 million in 2013, with a 7.1% surge in visitors expected by the end of 2014.

In order to allow this number to rise, Minister Sharma stated that the ETA visa on arrival method was a key component.

However, it is still a relatively unheard of process for most travellers, with Sharma saying he hopes to promote awareness of the ETA on social media, through the tourism body’s website, and via meetings with the media.

The latest tourism campaign, ‘Incredible India’, aims to boost the number of tourists visiting the country by showcasing in short videos the vast range of attractions to be found in India, from skiing to beaches, festivals to wildlife.

“Our tourism product is relatively uncluttered,” Joint Secretary for Tourism Suman Billa commented, adding that the introduction of the ETA is just one of the methods the government plans to use to draw more travellers to India.

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