Budget 2015: Government to increase visa on arrival facilities to 150 countries, says FM Jaitley
India will increase visa on arrival facilities to 150 countries from 43 currently in a phasewise manner, Arun Jaitley proposed in the latest fiscal budget.
Jaitley said last year's move had facilitated additional tourist inflows into the country.
Foreign tourist arrivals to India increased by 7.1% to 74.62 lakh in 2014 over 2013, compared to 5.9% to 69.68/lakh in 2013 over 2012.
Tourism sector stakeholders welcomed the move.
"Its a very positive move. It will remove some of the concerns and apprehensions that tourists as well as operators had as to how this system will work out. We need to understand the schedule which the FM hasn't announced. Just the fact that they identified a 150 countries is a very welcome move," said Madhavan Menon, managing director at Thomas Cook.
Jaitley also said the government will invest in heritage sites such as churches and convents in Goa, the Elephanta caves in Mumbai and the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. The government will invest in enhancing standards of security,amenities and illumination.
"It is a value to the tourists because a lot of these sites are in a bad shape and got no attention in the past. So, it will make access easier and as word gets around, more and more tourists will come. This will have long term implications and its a tourism friendly move," said Menon.
"Currently a Tourism Vision 2030 is underway by the ministry," said Jaideep Ghosh, head of tourism and hospitality at KPMG.
"The proposed increase in the number of countries under the Visa on Arrival scheme, we expect, should catapult the inbound foreign visits to exceed 8 million in the current calendar year. Announcements on conservation and promotion of World Heritage Sites are welcome, however this needs to be done as per international standards. Other initiatives such as Swacch Bharat, Clean Ganga, smart city, women safety, and tax benefits to Yoga need to be widely communicated to create a positive tourism environment,"he added.