Nov 22, 2008

India - Tourism;Govt may consider waiving off visa fee

Gearing up to deal with an impending slowdown in tourist arrivals, the tourism ministry is considering waiving off visa fee for foreign travellers. "There is a proposal from the tourism and hospitality industries to waive off the visa fee to attract more visitors and we are examining the issue," tourism secretary Sujit Banerjee said.

Currently, the visa fee is $35 a person. According to the available data, about five million tourists visited the country last year and India stands to lose more than $175 million if the fee is waived.

However, Banerjee said, "the decision cannot be taken by the ministry alone as the issue also involves external affairs ministry and home inistry. So the issue has to be examined taking all aspects in mind."

Tourism ministry had called a meeting of stakeholders, including tour and travel operators, during which suggestions were made for tackling the situation caused by the global meltdown, which may hit the tourist inflow to the country.

"The growth in tourist arrivals in October was not up to the expectation which is a cause of worry for us," said a senior ministry official.

"We have sought waiving off visa fee and simplification of visa procedures for foreign tourists for the next one year as an incentive for visiting India," Indian Association of Tour Operators chairman Vijay Thakur said. Demand has also been raised for reduction of luxury tax and road tax, he added. PTI

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