Friday, January 8, 2010

India Goes Rigid With Its Visa Rules

Recently, India made its visa rules tighter prohibiting the travelers from returning to India within 2 months of their visit to the country. Seeing this new guideline in the traveler visa rules of India, Britain quickly wedged a diplomatic protest against it. This tightening of the visa rule by the Indian government has been prompted by the recent arrest of David Headley. David Headley, a Pakistani-American is a prime suspect in the country who has been slapped with charges by the FBI on being a part of a dirty conspiracy relating to the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. The charged was found to have made nine trips to the country using a multiple entry business visa and in his visits he is also alleged to have visited several of the potential targets.

By going stricter with its visa rules, the country has also targeted the travelers who make long term visits to India by abusing their business visas and prolonging their stay here, which often stretch on for years. According to the news reports, the US Deputy Chief of Mission has taken up this matter seriously with the Home Ministry officials and the MEA, requesting them for a more flexible rule which will follow the “best visa practices”. To add to this, the British High Commissioner has also written a letter to the Government, requesting for a reconsideration of the decision given that several British passport holders of Indian-origin will be badly affected by this new rule. Since the issuance of PIO takes up a lot of times, the two countries think that the next best option available for these people is being taken away. To this, the Government explained that in a case where a visa holder needs to travel back to India within two months of their departure, he or she can approach the nearest Indian Consulate or Embassy.

The government then took up the matter for consideration of granting exemptions in exceptional cases and later declared that such a foreign national can be allowed to revisit the country if there are emergencies like serious illness in the family, death, non-availability of connecting flights for return. However, only those requests which will be backed with complete and proper documentation will be granted the permission by the concerned mission. Besides, the inbound tourist will also need to state that the purpose of his/her visit to India is purely emergency based and has nothing to do with business, employment, education etc. Also, once in this country, the visa holder will be required to visit the nearest Foreigners Regional Registration Office for registration.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

India Brings Visa-On-Arrival Policy for Tourists

 The Government has introduced a new mantra for promoting tourism in India. As many new guidelines are being introduced and several visa rules being tightened one after the other, the government recently announced the visa-on-arrival policy for the tourists flocking into the country. However, this new policy which has come as great news for the inbound travelers is not for all. This is to say that the visas-on-arrival will only be available for five selected countries. These countries include Japan, Singapore, New Zealand, Luxembourg and Finland. This new guideline will soon be implemented and much likely on this Friday as the ministry of external affairs said.

The ministry also said that this visas-on-arrival plan is a pilot project which will continue on an experimental basis for a full one year span. According to what the MEA said, the visa aims at those foreign travelers from these five countries who plan a trip to India on a short notice. The ministry further added that these tourists can get their visas from the posts or missions in the usual course. These visas will be valid for a maximum of 30 days and have a single entry facility. These will initially be issued by the immigration officers at all the major city airports viz. Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. Seeing the inconvenience of the foreign tourists in this matter and in the process of making clarifications to the Foreign missions, the ministry of external affairs said that a two months gap will be applied between two visas.

These visas will be given to the citizens of these five countries no matter where they fly in from. They will have to pay $60 for the visa which will be available at the airport counters of all the major metros in India. Besides they will also need to conform to a couple of rules and regulations. The airports authorities will also check if the tourist has the monetary capacity to sustain their stay for the period as given in their tour itinerary. This new rule will not only boost up the tourism business in the country but also strengthen the business bonds between Finland and Japan, as these have been the two countries who have been visiting India with huge inbound investments. Some of the shining examples of these Japanese investing companies in India are Nissan, Honda and Suzuki and those of Finland are Nokia and its associate companies.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tourism in India – Still Some Way to Go!

As Indians, we have always taken pride in our myriad cultures, rich history, lavish ancient structures, colorful festivals and captivating locales. What I am talking about, are the great attractions of this Indian subcontinent which have always drawn tourists from every corner of the globe and has every time made us Indians, proud. If we crawl back a decade or two down the historical lane, we will see that one of the major milestones of tourism in India was planted in the 80’s and then in the 90’s when the National Policy on tourism was laid down followed by the formation of the National Committee on Tourism and then tourism policies like the National Action Plan, National Strategy for Promotion of Tourism were proposed. 

Soon after, the India Tourism Development Corporation was born to promote
tourism in India and to finance the travel projects the Tourism Finance Corporation came into the picture. Since, then a number of organizations have followed one after the other to bring a boost in the tourism sector of India. With all these major efforts, India has pooled in a greater number of foreign as well as domestic travelers and this has made a huge contribution to the flourishing graph of the country’s economy, witnessing a stupendous growth since 2006. With the sketching of a wider spectrum of tourism packages in India, with airfares getting cheaper and the hospitality industry going world class, the scenario of tourism in India has got a lot better. 

Seeing such massive improvements, international organizations like the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the European Travel Commission have come up with interesting stats and graphs and predicted major booms in the coming years for the development of tourism in India. But then again, somewhere down that line, I do feel, there is a big gap in what the tourism industry in India has achieved till date. Frankly, I believe, the treasure pot of Indian tourism deserves much more than what it has at present. This is because, it has still plenty much little and big things to share with the world in terms of its travel delights! 

True, over the years, tourism development in India has traversed several phases and has come a long way since then, but then there still remains much to be done. There are areas which are still much neglected and I strongly feel a careful research on improving upon these areas can boom the tourism business in India many folds and reap sweeter fruits even before the predicted times. One of the major lacking points is the improper infrastructure which entails inadequate air seat capacity, untrained and low manpower, scarcity of suitable accommodation, poor hygienic conditions and inaccessibility to tourist locations. To add to these, poor visitor experience is another area deserving strong attention and here, I must not forget to make a mention of the real unfortunate and embarrassing incidents of tourist harassment, touting and cheating, which have occurred in some places in the recent past.

These apart, there are a few more areas I thought of wisely highlighting, hoping our Ministries of Tourism and related bodies would take notice of these facts and make sincere steps in improving the scenario. Many of you would agree with me that the information on the country and its various travel details available on the sites or books are very limited and most of the times inappropriate or outdated. These extremely useful information which otherwise have the potential of guiding the foreigners effectively, often end up misleading them. Besides, the foreign tourists are mostly interested in the heritage and the cultural tradition of India. Though India is promoted as the world’s most cultural country with an unmatched heritage, very friendly people and tastiest cuisines, hardly has much effort been made, in “practically” holding up these rich traditional facets of India to the world!

Paahun Tour Managers is just a new venture in this big competitive world of tourism in India which has tried to make an honest effort in meeting all that still needs attention. In the process of building this tour company brick by brick, I had to delve deeper into this travel business of my country to which I was revealed these loopholes in our tourism industry that are still quite a few and big ones, demanding immediate fixture. Tourism has always been a very demanding industry since the activities involved are multidimensional. If every wing of the Government body, entailing both the Central and the State levels as well as the private and voluntary organizing bodies partner in this effort, the tasks only get less hard to accomplish and the dream of making our country the best player in the world tourism industry, becomes much easier to achieve.