Government planning to expand visa-on-arrival facility

Jaipur, April 15 (IANS) Indian authorities Monday said consultations were going on about allowing visas-on-arrival (VoAs) to citizens of around 10-16 countries, in addition to the present 11 nations.

“We are in consultation with other authorities in the government over the matter,” A.K. Gupta, additional director general in the union tourism ministry, said on the sidelines of the Great Indian Travel Bazaar (GITB) here.

The tourism, home and external affairs ministries are in consultations.

India has VoA agreements with 11 countries: Japan, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Finland, Luxembourg, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

According to Gupta, talks are also being held on increasing the number of airports with the facility to issue VoAs.

Currently, only four airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, have such a facility. Bangalore and Hyderabad may be added to that list.

Latest data on VoAs shows that during January to March 2013, 5,744 VoAs were issued, as compared to 3,905 during the corresponding period of 2012, registering a growth of 47.1 percent.

In January to March 2013, tourists from Japan (2,251), New Zealand (985), Indonesia (739), the Philippines (631), Singapore (571), Finland (386), Luxembourg (61), Vietnam (53), Cambodia (42), Myanmar (22) and Laos (three) availed the scheme.

During January to March 2013, the highest number of VoAs were issued at Delhi airport (3,371) followed by Mumbai (1,239), Chennai (778) and Kolkata (356).

Last year, then tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay had said that the government was in the final stages of consultations to allow visa on arrival to citizens of 10 countries including Germany, France and Russia and of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

“The CIS countries can be one of the largest inbound tourist markets for India, as in winter India is an attractive and close destination for them,” Sahay had said.

The government has recently set a target of attracting 12 million international tourists by 2016.

The government has also started an initiative to provide skilled labour to the sector by starting the “Hunar Se Rozgar Tak” (From skill to employment) programme, training young people to take up jobs in tourism. In 2012-13, 60,000 youth were trained.

GITB is an initiative by state and central government’s tourism ministries and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). The GITB is intended to facilitate business-to-business (B2B) meetings between 273 exhibitors and foreign tour operators from across 56 countries with the Indian tourism products suppliers.

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