Visa fee hike de­ters In­dian in­bound

TravTalk - India - - QUICKBYTES -

The marked in­crease in visa charges for vis­it­ing India has not gone down well with tourists across the world as well as in­bound agents who claim that busi­ness has been af­fected whilst also ex­press­ing the im­pos­si­bil­ity of achiev­ing the govern­ment’s tar­get of 20 mil­lion tourists by 2020.

The in­crease in visa fee has im­pacted busi­ness to India from across the world, es­pe­cially from the South­east Asian coun­tries. We, as IATO, have taken up the mat­ter with both Min­istry of Tourism and Min­istry of Home Af­fairs (MHA). Last year in De­cem­ber, we were called for a meet­ing by Sec­re­tary Home, MHA. Prin­ci­pally, it was agreed that the visa fee should be re­duced and there shoud be no visa fee at all dur­ing the sum­mer months. I think it should be im­ple­mented af­ter the new govern­ment takes over, and this is set to cer­tainly boost in­bound tourism.

Visa fee hike is al­ways a de­ter­rent for peo­ple com­ing to India. If the visa fee is be­tween $70-80 for India, it doesn’t look like invit­ing tourists as com­pared to other South Asian des­ti­na­tions. India is an at­trac­tive destinatio­n for in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers for its her­itage and cul­ture. Hence, to en­cour­age tourists to come to India, the visa fee needs to be in check. MOT re­cently in­vited rep­re­sen­ta­tives from var­i­ous as­so­ci­a­tions to get their feed­back on visa fee hike. IATO pro­posed a re­duc­tion in the fee to make India a com­pet­i­tive destinatio­n. We also sug­gested that in low sea­son, there should be no visa fee to en­cour­age tourists to

Visa fee is not a big­ger is­sue but the se­cu­rity of the trav­eller vis­it­ing India is. There has been a lot of neg­a­tive preach­ing in the out­side world that India is un­safe. We have spent a huge bud­get on im­prov­ing our good­will through­out the globe. Thai­land waived off the visa fee and wit­nessed a rapid hike in the num­ber of tourists travelling to the coun­try. The govern­ment needs to take im­me­di­ate steps or pro­vide lu­cra­tive op­tions in terms of visa. A coun­try like Bhutan marks friend­ship with Ja­pan by re­duc­ing the roy­alty fee for tourists ev­ery year that re­sults in huge num­ber of Ja­panese travelling to Bhutan.

It is harsh on vis­i­tors for the govern­ment to be ask­ing for a visa fee. Even if it is look­ing to make some money out of it, the visa fee shouldn’t be more than 25 dol­lars. The hike does im­pact the busi­ness as a tourist, while mak­ing a book­ing, would not choose India over des­ti­na­tions like Turkey or Egypt, be­cause of the high visa fee here. In fact, there has been a de­cline in the num­ber of tourists vis­it­ing Goa this year due to the high visa fee. If we need to in­crease in­bound growth, the visa fee needs to be re­duced. Mul­ti­ple rep­re­sen­ta­tions are be­ing made by trade as­so­ci­a­tions to the govern­ment urg­ing them to re­con­sider and lower the visa fees.

The visa fee for India ranges be­tween $70-80 ap­prox­i­mately with an in­crease in va­lid­ity from 90 days to a year. An in­crease of $30 each on av­er­age on visa for a fam­ily of four would mean an in­crease of around $120 in the cost of travelling to the coun­try. This is at a time when our neigh­bour­ing des­ti­na­tions like Thai­land and In­done­sia are even of­fer­ing free visa-on-ar­rival dur­ing their lean pe­ri­ods to at­tract tourists around the year. To at­tract tourists from around the world, MOT has to work out a gim­mick with re­gards to the visa. Of­fer­ing well as guides are com­par­a­tively free dur­ing sum­mers.

The re­cent hike in the visa fees might have an ad­verse ef­fect on the tourism in­dus­try as peo­ple will be ap­pre­hen­sive in choos­ing India as a destinatio­n be­cause of the ad­di­tional cost sup­ple­ment. Many coun­tries are ex­empt­ing visa fees for tourists to lure them into vis­it­ing the re­spec­tive coun­tries. Case in point is Thai­land which of in­bound tourists and has re­sulted in a at the cur­rent sce­nario, steps are be­ing taken by lead­ing trade as­so­ci­a­tions like IATO to coax the govern­ment into re­view­ing the cur­rent pol­icy.

In­bound travel to India is fac­ing mul­ti­ple chal­lenges in terms of the cost of travel as com­pared to other neigh­bour­ing coun­tries with taxes on ac­com­mo­da­tion go­ing up to 28 per cent. The hike in the visa fee will only add to their woes, thereby mak­ing India an unattrac­tive destinatio­n to con­sider. The re­cent tur­bu­lence in the avi­a­tion sec­tor is ter­ri­ble news for tourism. The re­duc­tion in the num­ber of seats is mak­ing travel to India very ex­pen­sive. We to­tally sup­port IATO in its de­mand for a re­duc­tion in the fee. This is a vi­tal step to be able to at­tract a larger num­ber of tourists and make India an at­trac­tive destinatio­n to travel to.

The hike in visa fee has al­ways de­sisted trav­ellers. India in com­par­i­son to other coun­tries has a long list of cat­e­gories of trav­ellers for this. And in­ter­est­ingly, the rates are ex­or­bi­tant in each cat­e­gory (in­clud­ing Med­i­cal Visa At­ten­dant cat­e­gory). Firstly, we should know our USP – i.e. tourism, med­i­cal, con­fer­ences, MiCE. If at all we wish to in­crease the num­bers into our coun­try, we should be more lib­eral about the visa fees we charge. Coun­tries all over have re­alised that charg­ing a fee for visa to the tourist dis­cour­ages them as it adds to his ini­tial tour cost. We need to un­der­stand that ev­ery visi­tor adds more to the econ­omy by his or her spends when in the coun­try.

In­creas­ing the visa fee to en­ter India is not en­tirely coun­ter­pro­duc­tive as long as the fa­cil­i­ties be­come seam­less and quicker. Many of my guests com­plain of long wait­ing hours for get­ting the visa stamped at many In­dian air­ports as there are long queues at ar­rival ter­mi­nals. Hence, more visa pro­cess­ing coun­ters are needed with clear in­struc­tions to carry a copy of the visa ap­proval let­ter prior to board time at the air­port. The ef­fect for in­di­vid­ual tourists travelling as FITs is min­i­mal as com­pared to MiCE and group travel which is price-sen­si­tive.

Su­nil B Satyawakta Chair­man—Ut­tar Pradesh & Ut­tarak­hand Chap­ter, Travel Agents As­so­ci­a­tion of India

Deepak Gupta Chair­man—Sikkim & North Ben­gal Chap­ter, In­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Tour Op­er­a­tors

Sandi­pan Ghosh Gen­eral Sec­re­tary, East­ern Hi­malaya Travel and Tour Op­er­a­tors’ As­so­ci­a­tion

Ra­jiv Mehra Vice Pres­i­dent In­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Tour Op­er­a­tors

Ra­jnish Kaistha Joint Sec­re­tary, In­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Tour Op­er­a­tors

Suresh Peri­wal Manag­ing Di­rec­tor Club­side Tours and Trav­els

Ravi Go­sain Trea­surer, In­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Tour Op­er­a­tors

Di­pak Deva Manag­ing Di­rec­tor Travel Cor­po­ra­tion (India)

Hector D’souza Di­rec­tor L’Ori­ent

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