At a time when many countries in the world are attracting Indian tourists with easy visa facilitation services like visa-on-arrival or visa-free entry and that too without a visa fee by some, Indian government’s decision to increase the visa fee has not gone down very well with the country’s inbound tourism stakeholders who view the development as a counter-measure to government’s target of attracting 20 million tourists by 2020.
According to IATO President Pronab Sarkar, the visa fee increase can jeopardise government’s plan to reach an ambitious 20 million tourist target in just three years from the 10 million last year. He said, “On the one hand you are talking about 20 million tourist by 2020 and on the other hand you are not welcoming tourist by giving any rebate on visa fee.”
“If one million extra tourists come, there will be around 15 million direct and indirect jobs. Whereas the enhancement of the visa fee is only going to get 5,200 crore which is not a very big amount,” said Sarkar implying that the loss of tourist and its impact on job creation and other socio-economic benefit for the industry and the country would far outweigh any gains.
He stressed the need “to be seen as a destination that is welcoming to tourists.” “Recently Sri Lanka has announced visa free entry for the Indian tourists, GST there is at 13 per cent. So our neighbouring countries very well understand that this is an opportunity and are keen to get maximum tourist from India. So jobs are being exported to them and not happening in India. This is a serious thing.”
IATO has taken up the matter with the concerned authorities and the matter, according to Sarkar, has now reached the ministerial level.
A tourist visa now costs US$ 153 instead of US$ 100 earlier. For the UK nationals, one of India’s key tourism source markets, the fee has been revised to US$ 248 from US$ 168 earlier. The UK is India’s third largest tourism source market with a 10.70 per cent market share and close to a million arrivals a year.