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India opens to foreign tourists; too late, says travel industry

Tourists at the Taj Mahal in Agra.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Government’s decision to issue fresh tourist visas for those arriving on charter planes from Friday has received a tepid response from the travel industry, which says the move has come too late to help reap any benefit during the travel season.

“Unfortunately, charter operations in Europe are planned 6 to 8 months in advance and we are already booked for destinations like Dominican Republic, Mexico, Maldives and Kenya. India is very late in opening itself to foreign tourists, and it is unlikely that at this stage there will be a sudden influx of foreign tourists,” J.J. Singh, President, Indo Polish Chamber of Commerce and Industries, and President of IATA Travel agents in Poland, told The Hindu from Warsaw.

According to a DGCA official, by Friday they had only received a few queries on charter operations but there were no formal applications for chartered flights. He said they were waiting for detailed guidelines to seek greater clarity on important issues like RT-PCR tests for arriving passengers, etc.

While the Government has said that from November 15, foreign tourists entering into India by flights other than chartered aircraft will be issued fresh visas, travel and tour operators have been left flummoxed.

“The Government has provided us with bullets, but there is no gun to use them. How will tourists come into India if the Government doesn’t restart scheduled international flights,” Subhash Goyal, Chairman, Stic Travels, said.

India allows international travel only with 28 countries with whom it has signed air bubble agreements.

“The decision shows that the Government is not opening up with confidence. Without opening international flights, the Government will fail in encashing the tourism season and helping the industry to revive,” said Jyoti Mayal, President, Travel Agents Association of India.

Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Arvind Singh, told The Hindu that in the beginning the Government planned to issue visas only to those who arrive from one of the 28 countries with which India had air bubble agreements. Sources also said that the Ministry of Civil Aviation could hold consultations to expand air bubbles to more countries as well as increase the number of flights with those it already had bubble tie-ups depending on the travel demand.

But a lot more ground work will have to be done if India has to ensure hassle-free travel for tourists from November 15.

“We welcome the decision announced by the Government. However, it should be accompanied with opening up of commercial international flights as well as back-end work for e-visa documentation so that people don’t face bottlenecks. Additionally, branding activity in source markets needs to start and the Government needs to talk to various countries to ensure there is seamless entry and exit to and from India and travellers are not subjected to quarantine here or when they return to their home country,” said Ashish Gupta of The Federation of Associations of Indian Tourism & Hospitality(FAITH).


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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 11:38:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/fresh-tourist-visas-for-those-arriving-on-charter-planes-india/article37012453.ece

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