Buoyed by a rise in foreign tourist arrivals following the introduction of the e-tourist visa to several nationalities, including UAE citizens, India plans to extend the facility for more countries in the hopes of recording a jump in traffic this year.
India will extend the e-tourist visa facility to the nationals of 31 more countries from June this year, as part of a game-changing initiative to make travelling to India for tourism purpose “simple and hassle-free,” said Manas R. Pattanaik, regional director of Indian Tourism in Dubai.
Since the e-tourist visa facility has been made available for citizens of 45 countries on November 27, 2014, there has been a noticeable growth in traffic. In the first quarter of 2015 around 75,859 tourists arrived in India by availing the e-tourist visa facility. The Gulf-Middle East region is an important source market for India. “There has been a consistent growth in tourist arrivals from this region to India over the past three years with 2014 registering an overall growth of around19 per cent over the previous year. From UAE there was an increase of 1.8 per cent in the tourist traffic to India during the first quarter,” said Pattanaik.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market, where India has showcased its myriad of tourist attractions and potential under the ‘Incredible India’ banner.
Anurag Bhushan, Indian Consul General in Dubai; S. Pareeth, director, Department of Tourism, Kerala; Melvin D’silva, regional manager, Air India; and IRV. Rao, assistant director, India Tourism, were also present. In 2014, foreign tourist arrivals recorded a growth of 7.1 per cent to hit 7.46 million. Encouraged by the upswing in tourist traffic, India has set a target of boosting its share of global tourism traffic to at least one per cent from the present 0.66 per cent by 2017.
“A proposal for visa relaxation for a total of 150 countries in the world is under active consideration of the government. Tourism has been declared a priority sector by the government and the new tourism policy is on the anvil,” Pattanaik said.
Another hurdle towards a smooth travel experience in India has been removed with the introduction of e-ticketing for monuments, said Pattanaik.
The Regional Office of India Tourism in Dubai is organising tourism road shows, food festivals, and medical seminars in the GCC countries every year. Some of the countries, particularly, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt and Turkey have registered a significant growth and are emerging as major tourism generating markets for India from this region. The India Pavilion at the ATM has participants representing the State Tourism Board of Kerala along with Air India, ITDC, KTDC, tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers/resorts, wellness, spas and Ayurveda centres. The theme chosen this year by Ministry of Tourism for ATM, 2015 is “Find what you seek.”
One of the highlights of the ‘Incredible India’ showcase at ATM 2015 is the depiction of India as a multi-faceted tourist destination for luxury, wildlife, and wellness/medical tourism. “India has evolved as a round-the-year destination and all efforts are being made to develop niche products like wellness and medical tourism; adventure and wildlife tourism; film tourism; monsoon tourism; golf, polo and sports tourism and MICE tourism, while at the same time adding value to the cultural and heritage products of the country,” he said.
India has 32 World Heritage Sites, which include historic monuments and natural wonders.
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