Sunday, July 14, 2024

India announces free visas to boost post-Covid tourism

Even as India continues to remain on the list of countries banned from travel, the country is keen to open doors to welcome tourists soon. Now UAE citizens and other nationalities requiring visas to visit India can avail themselves of gratis permission to travel to India, as part of a Covid-19 recovery stimulus announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The free visa scheme will remain in force until March 31, 2022. Foreign tourists are encoouraged to take advantage of the scheme as quickly as possible to travel once India resumes issuance of tourist visas.

At present, India is not issuing visas in view of the risk of spreading Covid-19 from any influx of tourist, news agency WAM reported.

The free visa scheme suggests that this is set to change. Visa fee has been waived off on the first 500,000 visas to be issued, once the process resumes. If the limit of half a million visas is reached before March 31, 2022, payment will have to be made by applicants thereafter.

This waiver will cost the government one billion Indian rupees ($13.4 million) in visa fees but will provide other incentives to the tourism sector, which is part of a financial stimulus announced to kick start recovery of economic activity, hit by the pandemic.

To ensure that visitors from abroad will have a smooth travel experience, the government has assured financial support to all registered tourist guides in the country, to keep them in business and be of assistance to tourists. India has about 11,000 tourist guides who are registered with the Ministry of Tourism and with state governments to ensure their authenticity and reliability.

With tourism falling into coma since the lockdown early last year, many of these guides have sought alternative livelihood in other professions. The incentive of fully guaranteed loans up to 100,000 rupees ($1,345.8) announced is aimed at reviving these professions.  Loans of up to one million rupees ($13,458.4) with 100 per cent guarantee will also be provided to travel and tourism stakeholders, recognized by Ministry of Tourism,  to promote the holiday sector, it was announced. This money is to be used as working capital for tourist enterprises as they struggle to get back into business, the report said.

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