Indian Govt relaxes tourist visa rules!!

In a boost to the tourism industry, India has relaxed its tourist visa rules by lifting restrictions imposed on foreign visitors to have a two-month cooling off period between subsequent visits.

However, citizens of Pakistan, China, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sudan and people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin and “stateless persons” will continue to come under the 60-day gap rule.

The restriction was imposed in 2009 after the Mumbai terror attack when it was found that Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist David Headley had “grossly misused” his multiple-entry visa with which he made nine trips to India and prepared footage of 26/11 targets for the Pakistan-based terror group.

The Home Ministry, however, made it clear that any applicant for an Indian visa who has any sort of Pakistan lineage, even if it is two generations back, must be referred to Delhi by the Indian missions for prior clearance.

In its November 23 order, the Home Ministry said, “The provision relating to the two-month gap between two visits of a foreign national to India on a tourist visa has been reviewed by the government. It has now been decided to lift the restriction of two-month gap on re-entry of foreign nationals coming to India”.

The move to review the visa restriction was initiated by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in January 2012 after concerns were raised by the Tourism Ministry that the negative perception following the move had affected flow of tourists.

The PMO had asked the ministries of Home and External Affairs to review the restrictions, including the possibility of bringing in more countries under the visa-on-arrival scheme and improving conditions at major airports.

Earlier, the US Embassy and the British High Commission too had approached the MEA and Home Ministry asking them to work out a more flexible system based on “best visa practices”.

The government had been maintaining that in case there is a need for a visa holder to return within two months of departure from India, then the person can approach the nearest Indian embassy or consulate.

Apart from the Headley episode, the security agencies had also found that many foreign nationals – quite a few of them of Indian origin – had been staying in India for years together.

A large number of them, sources claimed, were running shops, conducting business and related activities which could not be termed as tourism.

So, the government had argued that it had no choice but to introduce a two-month cooling off period, which would bar these visa holders from returning to India for at least two months after they have left the country.

latest move is likely to breathe fresh life into the tourism industry and comes just ahead of the peak tourist season. India’s share of international tourist arrivals in 2011 was a mere 0.64 per cent.

According to latest data, foreign tourist arrivals this year till October showed a marginal increase of 6.2 per cent compared to last year. Tourist arrivals till October were 52.19 lakh.

With the lifting of the 60-day restriction, foreign tourists will be encouraged to visit India and use it as a hub while visiting southeast Asian and neighbouring countries.

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98% Indian travellers comment about their interests online!

A whopping 98 per cent of Indian travellers comment about their interests online and Asia- Pacific travellers want more social media and cannot go on holiday without their smartphones and laptops, says a study.

Travellers from Asia-Pacific countries are both most enthusiastic about social media and most attached to their mobile devices in the world, according to Text100’s Digital Index: Travel and Tourism study.

The study, which covered on 4,600 respondents in 13 countries, suggests that Asia-Pacific consumers lead the way in using social media to inspire, purchase and share their travel experiences.

“Widespread Asia-Pacific enthusiasm for social media is definitely not a signal for the travel industry to invest solely in digital,” said Anne Costello, Text100’s Regional Director, APAC.

“Travel and tourism operators need to integrate their traditional and new communications channels, but more importantly they need to focus on delivering content which their customers actually want to receive,” Costello added.

The study also found that 89 per cent of Asia-Pacific travellers use travel apps on their smartphones or tablets while on holiday, primarily for information about local attractions and finding their way around.

This ‘always-on’ tendency, however, means that Asia-Pacific travellers find it harder to switch-off on holiday than any others, 34 per cent use their mobile devices to do work while on holiday, compared to a global average of 22 per cent, the study said.

“As the fastest adopters of digital technology when it comes to travel, Asia-Pacific consumers are experiencing more benefits and challenges alike than the rest of the world.

“As a result, these tech-savvy travellers feel the travel industry needs to do more to keep up with their fast-growing reliance on mobile device and social media as part of the overall travel experience,” it said.

Seventy-two per cent of travellers from Asia-Pacific countries have used social media to inspire at least one element of their recent holidays, compared to only 51 per cent of travellers globally, it said.

Despite this appetite for digital communication, many Asia-Pacific consumers still base travel decisions on more traditional sources of influence. 48 per cent say traditional travel agents still help in planning their holidays, while 57 per cent are influenced by travel TV programmes.

Asia-Pacific countries include India, China, Malaysia, Singapore among others.

|| Atithi Devo Bhava || 6.31 mn foreign tourists arrived in India in 2011!!

 

The number of foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in India in 2011 was 6.31 million which was up from the previous year’s figure of 5.78 million and 5.17 million arrivals in 2009.

In a written reply in Rajya Sabha, Tourism Minister K Chiranjeevi also said that the working group on tourism for the 11th five-year plan had set a target of 10 million international visitors by 2011.

 

To another question, he said that the foreign exchange earnings in India through tourism during 2010, 2011 and January to October 2012 were Rs 64,889 crore, Rs 77591 crore and Rs 74,215 crore respectively.

Responding to another question, Chiranjeevi said that the Haryana government had informed that it had decided to upgrade the Surajkund Fair to Surajkund International Crafts Fair in 2013.