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.
Rajiv Mehra, Vice President, Indian Association of Tour Operators
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.
Dipak Deva, Managing Director, Travel Corporation (India)
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.
Suresh Periwal, Managing Director, Clubside Tours and Travels
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.
Ravi Gosain, Treasurer, Indian Association of Tour Operators
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 visit India during summers, just like what Thailand had done.
Rajnish Kaistha, Joint Secretary, Indian Association of Tour Operators
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 free visa in lean season would benefit as hotels, transporters as well as guides are comparatively free during summers.
Sunil B Satyawakta, Chairman—Uttar Pradesh & Uttarakhand Chapter, Travel Agents Association of India
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.
Deepak Gupta, Chairman—Sikkim & North Bengal Chapter, Indian Association of Tour Operators
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.
Sandipan Ghosh, General Secretary, Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association
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 has seen a significant rise in the inflow of inbound tourists and has resulted in a significant increase of cash inflow and tourism growth. Looking at the current scenario, steps are being taken by leading trade associations like IATO to coax the government into reviewing the current policy.
Hector D’souza, Director, L’Orient
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 boarding a flight to India in order to reduce processing and waiting 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.