Now, foreigner tourists can really hope to travel to India lightly. One of the cumbersome part of their visits — the immigration process — is set to get easier as the UPA government is set to unveil an ambitious plan to get them in large numbers.
To start with, Indian immigration forms will get shorter and simple. The new version of the immigration form will be post-card size, seeking some basic information such as name and travel document passport details.
In the process, home-bound Indians will also benefit.
Plans are afoot for doing away with both disembarkation of home-bound Indian tourists barring the customs formalities and embarkation for outgoing foreigners.
Going further, the tourism ministry has also made pitch for visa on arrival (VOA) for 17 more countries. At present India gives VOA to tourists from 11 countries.
VOA is considered to be a key tool to attract tourists and all major tourist destinations in the world such as Thailand, Mauritius have liberal visa regimes.
“We have made a conscious decision to make India more attractive to foreign tourists. We are taking many steps such as making Indian visa forms available in other popular international languages like French, German and Spanish,” tourism minister K Chiranjeevi told HT.
However, the push to further liberalize the visa regime has met with reservations from the home ministry. For example, tourism ministry is keen to give VOA to Germany which enjoys similar facility from over 100 countries in the world.
It is also seen as a good diplomatic move as Germany, Europe’s biggest economic powerhouse, is also India’s biggest trading partner in the continent. India also has a growing strategic tie with Germany.
But home ministry has reservations on extending VOA on a large scale because of the national security concerns. They fear that pro-Khalistan groups which are active in some European countries as well as in Canada could exploit this facility.
“Issues of national security should also be kept in mind while deciding on relaxed visa regime for tourists,” said a government official.
Government seems determined to catch in on the tourism sector that could get foreign exchange at a time more global tourists are looking for better options in Asia.
The Centre also has a target of getting 80 lakh foreign tourists by 2015. In 2012 66,48,318 foreign tourists visited India against 63,09,222 tourists in 2011.