Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Indian Government Clears Way for Visas on Arrival (VoA)

Cattle fair, Tamil Nadu
(photo by Geraldine Westrupp)
Great news for tourists to India this week from the Indian government. According to an article in the Times of India:

"India is set to roll out the red carpet for foreign tourists. The government on Monday cleared a slew of measures including extending visa on arrival (VoA) to 40 countries, establishing an online application system for visas and facilitating visa on arrival for pensioners and those attending conferences.

The decision means foreign tourists will be able to apply for an Indian visa from the comfort of their homes while citizens from 40 countries including the US, the UK, Germany, France, Brazil, Russia and China among others will avail visa on arrival when they land on Indian shores. The government has also agreed to extend visa on arrival to foreign travelers above 60 years of age from all countries and cut down the time taken to give visas to groups that are keen to attend conventions.
There has to be a change in mindset towards the way we treat foreign tourists. All representatives of government agreed on extending visa on arrival to 40 countries and initiating an online system as soon as possible," planning minister Rajeev Shukla said.
According to sources, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had also discussed the issue with top officials of ministries like tourism for relaxing visa norms for more countries.
In 2012, India received 6.58 million foreign tourists, up 4.3% over the previous year. India'sforeign exchange earnings in 2012 from tourists were $17.74 billion, showing an increase of 7.1% year-on-year. However, the last few months have seen a dollarless growth.
Times View
Making it easy for foreigners to visit India should be high on any government's agenda given the tourism industry's enormous potential to create jobs and earn foreign exchange, both of which are of critical importance at the moment. Tourism is the single largest employer worldwide and that's a big plus for a labour surplus economy such as ours. Tourist-friendly measures such as visa-on-arrival and online visa application should be extended to as many countries as possible. We hope that the impetus provided by Chiranjeevi continues even if he quits the Cabinet. While relaxing our restrictive visa regime is a good first step, much more needs to be done to attract visitors to India in terms of improving our soft and hard infrastructure."
Here's a link to the online article: