India Business
Visas on demand after airport modernisation: minister
Feb 22, 2007 - 7:51:54 PM

New Delhi, Feb 22 - India is planning to introduce five-year multiple entry visas, as also for issuing the document on arrival, once the country's major international airports are modernised, Tourism Minister Ambika Soni said here Thursday.

'India is planning to issue five-year multiple entry visas. The ministry of external affairs has agreed to issue visas on arrival once the major international airports are modernised,' Soni said at a function here where she released the 'Total Tourism India' report.

Credit card major Visa and the Pacific Area Travel Association - have jointly brought out the report that took 12 months to prepare. It recommends a seven-point action plan to advance India's tourism development.

This includes expanding airport capacity, reforming airline policy, expanding accommodation inventory, reducing and simplifying the taxation regime, cutting bureaucratic delays, boosting human resources and streamlining visa processing.

Detailing the other step on the visa front, Soni pointed out that Indian missions abroad had been asked to outsource consular work to enable the document within 48 hours of application.

Admitting that much needed to be done, as pointed out by the Visa-PATA report, Soni said: 'Our focus initially was on creating social infrastructure and providing drinking water and electricity to the villages.

'We have now identified a role for tourism and are positioning it as an economic driver, a provider of employment and an earner of revenue for development. Tourism is now being treated as an infrastructure ministry,' she added.

Noting that India had targeted 10 million tourists by 2010, against the current 4.4 million, Soni pointed out that 'it is not just a question of numbers. Tourism is poised to grow not only in the traditional sense but the challenge is to attract the repeat traveller'.

The minister also pointed out that $6.5 billion of foreign direct investment 'is in the pipeline' in the hospitality sector but then added: 'The government must realise the fact that private players will invest only if this is facilitated, for instance, by single window clearances.

'The - budget - might have some surprises,' Soni stated.

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