New Delhi, 6 Oct : India has initiated the process to extend visa on arrival facility to tourists from 40 more countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Brazil, Australia, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, a move which will make the country a more tourist friendly and promote foreign exchange earnings.
The consensus was brought on these issues during a high level meeting convened here today by the Planning Commission.
“There was a consensus about initiating the process to make India a tourist-friendly country and extending the on-arrival visa facility to around 40 more countries,” Planning Minister Rajeev Shukla told PTI.
The minister said: “All officials, including the National Security Advisor (Shivshankar Menon), were of the view that India should do this as it would help in garnering more foreign exchange when government is battling the problem of burgeoning current account deficit as it would help in earning foreign exchange.”
Besides Commission’s Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, others who attended meeting include, Foreign Secretary (Sujatha Singh), Tourism Secretary (Parvez Dewan), Additional Home Secretary and representatives from the Intelligence Bureau and the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office).
According to the minister, India’s visa regime has deflected foreign tourists from the US, Canada and Europe to Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal.
The other countries for which this facility can be extended include Germany, France, Italy, Swedan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Poland, Norway, Ireland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Israel, Mauritius, Czech Republic, Oman, Argentina and Kazakhstan. .
In 2012, India received 6.58 million foreign tourists, up 4.3 percent over the previous year. India’s foreign exchange earnings in 2012 from tourists were USD 17.74 billion, showing an increase of 7.1 percent year on year.
Under the visa on arrival system, India has agreement with different countries, including Japan, Finland, Singapore, Indonesia, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Laos and Myanmar.