Nirmala Sitharaman backs easier visa regime for promoting tourism

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The Commerce Ministry has pitched for an easier visa regime to promote tourism including medical tourism and boost service sector exports.

Nirmala Sitharaman-AV

“We wanted e-visas and visa on arrival to be provided, so that it becomes less cumbersome. That is the recommendation which has gone from our ministry,” Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

Citing an example, she said if a tourist is going to Bodh Gaya in Bihar and then to Nepal and wants to come back to visit Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, a single entry visa will not be helpful.

“It should be a multiple entry visa otherwise the tourist will have to once again obtain a visa. So these kind of anomalies, we wanted to be sorted out,” she said.

The main idea of these recommendations is to promote tourism and other services.

“We have sent it off to the Home Ministry because they have to consider it from internal security point of view and so on,” Sitharaman said.

The proposal is part of the ministry’s initiatives to boost India’s services trade.

According to an industry expert, India is missing out on a huge opportunity worth about $80 billion annually in terms of attracting overseas tourists and foreign exchange.

Small countries like Thailand attract millions of people whereas tourists flow in India is far less.

The move assumes significance as the services sector constitutes about 60% of India’s gross domestic product, but its share in global exports of services remains at a lowly 3.15%.

The area has emerged as a prominent sector in India in terms of its contribution to national and state income, trade and foreign direct investment inflows.