The government is working to simplify the visa-on-arrival scheme by next year to augment inbound tourism

In its bid to increase the number of inbound tourist arrivals, the Ministry of Tourism is working closely with other government agencies to try and make its visa-on-arrival scheme for tourists simpler and faster to attract more inbound tourists.

According to Secretary Tourism, Parvez Dewan, the gap between inbound and outbound tourism is widening and immediate steps were needed to be taken to increase inbound tourism.

“The current ratio of inbound tourism to outbound tourism is 1.2 to 2.5 and the gap is not narrowing but widening. People may say this is because we have such a large population, but at the same time, we are a large country and we need to attract a lot more people and for that, we need to be attractive for inbound tourists. Visa-on-arrival scheme has been there for some countries, there should be some more improvement on this visa-on-arrival scheme,” he said.

Mr. Dewan said one of the issues that can be improved is the current payment for visa-on-arrival in Indian rupees. “We hope that before the next South Asian Travel & Tourism event, tourists can pay in dollars or other country currency or may be even through a credit card. That’s one comfort we need to bring in; we hope it will be done by the next year.”

The Tourism Ministry is also trying to reduce the time taken at visa counters and develop major metros of the country as tourism hubs which can serve as base camps for international tourists who can explore smaller tourist destinations within a day and come back.

Tourism Minister K. Cheeranjeevi is of the view that while identifying and developing the circuits, efforts would be made to plug infrastructure gaps and provide necessary amenities to tourists.

After a downturn following the world financial crisis and Mumbai terror attack, foreign tourist arrivals have been on the rise and the government wants to maintain the momentum by developing more sites and certain niche circuits.According to the Planning Commission Working Group on Tourism, India is targeting one per cent of world tourist arrivals by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan (2017). India’s share in international tourist arrivals in 2011 was 0.64 per cent.According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), nearly 40 million Indians are employed in the tourism sector and the country has the highest growth potential over a 10-year period between 2009 and 2018.

The Tourism Ministry’s statistics show that 6.29 million foreign tourists arrived in 2011, earning the country $16.5 billion. In the first 11 months of 2012, 5.89 million tourists came to India against 5.57 million in 2011, earning the nation $16.78 billion — a growth of 22.1 per cent over the like period in 2011. Around 851 million domestic tourists travelled within the country in the January-October period in 2012, up from 748 million in 2011. India is targeting domestic tourism growth of about 12 per cent by the end of the 12th Plan.

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