India to reopen doors

Announcing the opening up of the country to international tourists almost 19 months after tourist visas were suspended due to outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the home ministry said it will begin issuing fresh tourist visas in a phased manner, starting with foreigners arriving on chartered flights, from October 15 onwards.

The facility will be extended to foreigners coming in flights other than chartered ones from November 15. An officer explained that ‘other than chartered flights’ meant that fresh tourist visas may initially be granted to foreigners coming in from countries with which India has an ‘air bubble arrangement’. As and when demands builds up and commercial flights also start operating, tourist visas will be issued for those entering India by commercial flights.

“All due protocols and norms relating to Covid-19, as notified by the ministry of health & family welfare from time to time, shall be adhered to by the foreign tourists, carriers bringing them into India and all other stakeholders at landing stations,” the home ministry said in a statement.

During a virtual event with a cross-section of people from Goa last month, PM Modi had said that the central government was taking steps to welcome back foreign tourists. “The government has taken a decision to give five lakh tourists free visas. Travel and tourism stakeholders will be given loans up to Rs 10 lakh with a 100% guarantee by the government,” he had announced.

The decision to welcome back foreign tourists — which is expected to revive the tourism, aviation, hospitality and other related sectors that have been badly hit on account of long suspension of foreign travel — comes after representations were received by the home ministry from several state governments as well as other stakeholders to revive tourist visas.

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