This month has been happening for the Indian travel and tourism industry with anticipation of major announcements from the government for the revival of business. After the authorities’ nod to resume scheduled international commercial flights from March 27, the sector, which reeled heavily under the impact of Covid-19 for the last two years, got another major boost with the announcement of the resumption of e-Tourist Visa for 156 countries and regular paper visa for nationals of all countries with immediate effect. These two key announcements have set the tone for the revival of business and hopes for a good inbound tourist season later this year.
Expressing relief and optimism the industry is now waiting to hear a decision on the first five lakh free visa scheme announced by the Finance Minister last year and inclusion of the UK and Canada, which were major tourist source markets for India pre-Covid, in the list of countries who can avail the e-Visa facility. These two decisions apart from an aggressive promotional and marketing campaign for destination India in foreign markets can prove crucial in gaining a good share in the global tourism diaspora and restart afresh to make Incredible India the desirable destination for foreign tourists once again.
ETTravelWorld spoke to various industry leaders and stakeholders to understand the impact of these announcements and what else is needed to be done now to give good competition to emerging tourist markets, especially the neighbouring countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and others, who are very aggressive in their approach to attract global tourists.
Rajiv Mehra, President of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), said that the decision is a big relief for the entire industry and they are now waiting for the government to extend the validity of free tourist visa till March 31, 2024, without the capping of five lakh free tourist visas and also allow entry of foreign tourists through land borders of Nepal and Bhutan for the revival of Buddhist Tourism. “We hope that it will create confidence amongst the foreign tourist that India is now safe to travel, and they can visit India without any hassles. While IATO wholly welcomes the announcement made by the government, it also urges the government to restore e-Tourist Visa from the countries such as the UK and Canada as a high number of tourists visit India from these countries,” he added.Jyoti Mayal, President of the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), sharing her views on the announcements, said that resumption of e-Visas for the USA and Canada would be a humungous step towards the revival of tourism as they are the biggest source markets for India. “It is a sigh of relief to hear the verdict of visa resumptions. We were requesting the government bodies continuously as the travel & tourism needs to be back on track. There is no doubt that domestic tourism came as a rescue, but this fact also cannot be denied that the ban on international travel came as the biggest setback. The picture is different now, and visa resumption of 156 countries from India, is welcome news to revive business and it is, definitely, the need of the hour. It is time to collaborate coordinate & push for the revival of tourism. No more hurdles should be a part of this sector,” she mentioned.
Sharing his views, Vivek Angra, President & Business Head – UK, Trail Blazer Tours India opined that the UK and Canada are key source markets for India, and leaving these countries from the list of countries defeats the whole purpose. He feels that these two markets are critical to getting a kickstart for Indian inbound tourism and now, people from these countries have to apply for a visa conventionally by going to the visa centres, which will only force them to opt for other South Asia or Southeast Asian destinations over India, which have a more practical approach.
Whereas, Madhavan Menon – Managing Director, Thomas Cook (India) stated that the announcement will give impetus to the revival of inbound tourism and allied sectors, including hospitality and aviation; also local communities and tourist guides, which are dependent on tourism for their livelihood.
On the other hand, Vishal Suri, Managing Director, SOTC Travel said that the announcement of visas has been highly appreciated across the tourism industry; more so as it comes on the back of the reopening of India’s international skies from March 27. “This welcoming move by the Government of India comes at a time when countries are also reopening their borders and similar announcements from other countries will inspire India’s outbound travellers. The positive announcement is reflective of the declining Covid caseloads and hence serves to boost confidence in travel thus significantly contributing to the revival of the travel & hospitality industry,” he added.