It will soon be an easy and open season for international tourists headed for India. Tourists intending to travel to India from up to 180 countries will not be required to personally visit their local consulates to get visas but will be able to avail of Visa on Arrival facility at a number of international airports in India.

As part of a major reform that is sure to bring cheer to travel, tourism and hospitality sector, tourist ‘Visa on Arrival’ facility will soon be extended to travellers arriving in India from nearly 180 countries. Final discussions among senior officials of the External Affairs Ministry, Home Ministry and intelligence officials were held at the high-level meeting at the Planning Commission on Wednesday to push forward the initiative. Minister of State for Planning Rajeev Shukla said that granting of tourist Visa on Arrival to travellers from 180 countries would soon become a reality.

The new facility would allow tourists to apply online and they would then be informed within a few days about their visas on arrival at any of the international airports in India. Last October, the facility was extended to travellers from about 40 countries but in its bid to make India an attractive and more tourist-friendly place to visit, the government decided to push the initiative further to include more countries.

Official sources said that reforms include simplifying online visa system, relaxing visa regime for conferences and senior citizen foreign tourists. Airports like Goa, Gaya and Amritsar which have good number of foreign tourist arrivals may be included in the list of international airports where Visa on Arrival to foreign tourists would be made available.

At present visa facility on arrival is available at international airports of Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Kochi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. In 2012, India received 6.58 million foreign tourists, up 4.3 per cent over the previous year. India's foreign exchange earnings in 2012 from tourists were $17.74 billion.

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