IATO seeks PM’s intervention to restore e-Tourist Visa for UK, Canada and other important countries
Pandemic broke the back of the entire Hospitality sector but the worst hit has been the inbound tourism industry with the arrival of foreign tourists going down to trickle. Now the pandemic seems to be over, with the Hospitality sector rebounding but similar rebound seems to be eluding the inbound industry. There are multiple reasons for it like high airfares, restriction on travel and above all difficulty in procuring the visas. In this regard IATO has made numerous representations and sent letters to the Tourism, Home Affairs and External Affairs Ministry requesting them for restoration of E-Visa for UK, Canada and other source markets as maximum foreign tourists travel to India from these countries. “Having failed to evoke any response from these ministries, we have written to the PM, hoping for a quick resolution” says IATO President Rajiv Mehra.
It is well known that tourists decide well in advance about the destinations they will be travelling to and given the delay and difficulty in procuring Indian visas from source countries, the sector may not see the revival that was expected and quite probable that they may travel to neigbouring countries as it is easier to procure their visas. According to Mehra, “ IATO is in receipt of a number of requests from our members/foreign counterparts expressing their concern on the delay the intending tourists in UK are facing in getting Normal Visa for India as there is no e-Tourist Visa at present. Appointments are not available to intending foreign tourists at the VFS Global offices in the UK. It is taking 6 to 8 weeks’ time in the UK to get a normal Indian Visa and even for that also appointments by the VFS Global offices are not being given. Handling of normal paper Visa for India by the Embassy in the UK/VFS Global is very discouraging and harassing for the tourists planning to come to India as it is taking 2 to 3 months to get a Normal Tourist Visa and that too after a lot of efforts”.
IATO is getting feedback that if the situation does not improve, foreign tour operators will stop selling India tour packages. Due to Non-availability of E-Tourist Visa for UK, Canada and other source markets, we as a country are losing huge business as tourists from these countries are opting for alternative destinations. If this situation continues it will be a big loss for the Inbound tourism business and the entire season may be lost, causing further loss of foreign exchange earnings and loss of employment as one foreign tourist coming to India creates 9 jobs directly or indirectly.
“We are trying to recreate jobs for the trained tourism professionals who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19, but under the circumstances when there are lot of problems in getting Indian Visa, it is difficult to achieve our goal of recreating employment in tourism sector and to contribute for the economic development through inbound tourism” adds Mehra.