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India to issue first 5 lakh tourist visas for free to boost tourism: Sitharaman

Five lakh tourist visas will be issued free of charge – once the government resumes issuance – Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today, as the government unveiled a list of eight relief measures for some of the sectors worst affected by the Covid pandemic and lockdown.

This scheme will run till March 31, 2022, or till the first five lakh tourist visas are issued, whichever is earlier, Sitharaman said, adding that each tourist could only avail of this scheme once.

She said the total financial implication of the scheme wil be INR100 crore. Travel and tourism sector is among the sectors most badly hit by the pandemic. States for whom tourism is a big earner – like Goa and Kerala – have reported thousands of crores in losses.

As early as May last year (three months after the government suspended issuing tourist visas and ordered a lockdown), then Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said the state suffered an estimated INR 15,000 crore loss.

o illustrate the impact Covid has had on this sector, Nirmala Sitharaman said 10.93 million tourists visited India in 2019 and spent nearly USD 31 billion on leisure and business.


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