The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has announced the resumption of granting fresh Tourist Visas to foreigners coming to India through chartered flights with effect from October 15. However, foreign tourists traveling to India by flights other than chartered aircraft would only be able to do so with effect from November 15. All Covid-19 protocols and norms notified by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to be adhered to by foreign tourists, carriers bringing them into India, and other stakeholders at landing stations.
The travel and tourism industry which was in complete distress for the past 18 months has welcomed the government’s move to restart issuing of visas to foreign tourists. Travel associations had been tirelessly following up with various ministries in order to restart the tourism sector in a calibrated manner.
Thanking the government for considering their request to resume the tourist visa, Rajiv Mehra, President Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) believes it’s very encouraging for the tourism industry and hopes the inbound tourism would at least start to some extent and will give a sigh of relief to the tourism industry stakeholders.
Mr. Mehra has made an appeal to the Government to resume international flight operations and all airlines should be allowed to start operating their flights as per the bilateral agreement that was in place prior to March 2020 so that foreign tourists who want to visit our country can book their tickets.
Rajeev Kohli, Joint Managing Director, Creative Travel shares, “I am extremely happy to finally hear this news. It’s been long overdue and this will go a long way in boosting the morale of the Indian industry. I hope the rules they apply for the entry of tourists are sensible, reasonable, and open to all. We need to live up to our ethos of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ and welcome the world to India with open arms to make it as easy yet as logical as possible.”
The timing and value of this decision are distinctively noticeable when an elated Ravi Gosain, MD – Erco Travels & VP – IATO shares that nothing can be better than this announcement for everyone in the inbound tourism industry who were eagerly waiting for almost 18 months to resume work.
He adds, “This announcement is nothing less than a blessing for millions of jobless people and dependents on inbound tourism. I am sure the MOT will promptly circulate this to all FTO’s through their channels. Several countries are opening their borders for tourists, so we have to be proactive in order to cease the opportunity to attract tourists to India who is likely in the deciding phase of their next holiday destination. Similarly, I presume the announcement of scheduled commercial flights will be within a week or so only then will it serve the purpose of opening borders. IATO was in constant touch with the ministry of tourism, Home, Civil aviation, Health for opening the borders, and the announcement coinciding with the first day of the holy week of Navratri comes as a much-awaited blessing for us all. Now, the industry needs to be on its feet and work diligently in the coming months to cover up the losses and bring the industry back on track.”
“This decision will give the right positive message to the world that India is ready to receive International tourists and offer exciting and experiential holidays again. It is very important to resume normal international flight operations at the earliest. Everyone in the industry is very happy and thanks to the ministry of tourism, home, and external affairs. India is expected to do well in tourism in the coming years,” asserts E M Najeeb, Sr VP IATO and President CKTI.
TAAI was not behind in showing exuberation and extended their gratitude to the Ministry of Home Affairs to restart tourist visas for foreign travellers. Jyoti Mayal, President hopes commercial flights will start beyond air bubbles effective November 15 to facilitate seamless travel. She shares, “There could not be better news on the Tourism front for the beleaguered inbound industry in the last 18 months with the announcement of opening borders for foreign tourists. The otherwise on ventilator industry and its millions of workforce shall get much of its reprieve.”
She added that this will be a great relief to the travel trade fraternity of India as businesses will surely pick up and after a long gap, our members will be able to transact more business. And, will certainly give confidence to travellers looking at visiting India for tourism purposes.
Dipak Deva, Managing Director, Travel Corporation of India believes that this move coupled with the earlier announcement of free visas for the first 5 Lakh inbound tourists, is a critical move that will accelerate the much-needed revival of inbound tourism – a sector that plays a critical role, with over 9 per cent contribution to India’s GDP and USD 30 billion in net foreign exchange receipts; equally a force multiplier in terms of employment generation and skill development across allied sectors.
Rajnish Kaistha, Director, Paradise Holidays India and Hony. Secretary, IATO thanked MoT for conveying their message loud and clear that a lead time must be given and 15 Nov gives the industry a good 5 weeks heads up to get ready and put Covid SOPs in place.
Focusing on the importance of positive marketing and SOP’s, he shares “I am glad that IATO and all other tourism bodies worked very hard towards a common goal of opening India to the world. Our partners abroad are equally excited to start selling India tours once again. We along with MOT immediately need to put out a positive marketing campaign in at least the top 20 tourism generating countries. We must get foreign mainstream media and big wholesalers to showcase India’s readiness for receiving tourists with SOPs in place. It shall help send a positive message out to the real tourists.”
Highlights the need for collective efforts both by the Ministry of Tourism and the Industry, Sanjay Basu, Managing Director, Far Horizon Tours shares, “Along with celebrating this great and proactive step by the government, I would like to reinforce that now is the time for serious action by both Ministry of Tourism and the Industry together! India must be launched, a massive promotion as a safe destination with a well-vaccinated population is of paramount importance. A destination offering great pristine natural wonders where tourists will feel less impacted by pandemic conditions along with its traditional star attractions. The government should also think on increasing the free visas from 500,000 to one million while also increasing the period to cover till December 2022.”
He emphasised on the importance of a great publicity campaign with some rebates on GST to attract eyeballs from all over the world. Sanjay adds, “However, along with short-term plans, India needs to put into place long-term plans for making Indian tourism gain its due importance under the Sun! Tourism should be declared as an industry, it must be brought into the concurrent list for cohesive planning and tourism infrastructure development and promotion should be created treating India as a subcontinent of experiences and not just, a country that is trying to unsuccessfully compete against little city destinations.”