India has started giving tourist visas to overseas travelers after suspending them in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, however travel service providers said the response has been lukewarm so far.
Last month, the Union home ministry had said it would start granting new tourist visas. To foreigners coming to India through chartered flights with effect from 15th October 2021. Also, it had said that foreign tourists coming to India from flights other than chartered aircraft would have the option to do as such with effect from 15th November 2021.
“The rules have been inconsistent and the air bubble arrangement flights are full. The fares are also extremely steep. Why would tourists come at these rates?” said Rajeev Kohli, joint managing director, Creative Travel. “None of our overseas partners have expressed an interest. Clients have options and other nations have been easing restrictions. They also need to rebuild their share of the travel pie.”
India starts issuing tourist visas
Jyoti Mayal, president of the Travel Agents Association of India, said she will write a letter to the ministries of civil aviation, tourism, external affairs, and three other ministries on Tuesday, urging them to resume scheduled commercial international flights. “Air bubble flights will not be sufficient and competitive enough. Essential travel will occur however tourism will not happen unless flight prices become reasonable. Leisure travelers won’t come otherwise,” she said.
Rajiv Mehra, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, said the air bubble flight fares are probably three to multiple times the normal fares. “The government must look at operating the flights as per the bilateral agreements which were in place before March last year. Also, e-tourist visas have not opened for Canada and the UK. The UK is a major source market. The response would be low and it could remain so for a really long time,” he said.
R Parthiban, the director, Swagatam Tours, said while there have been “reciprocal issues” for certain nations. There has also been a ton of ambiguity regarding travel rules and requirements such as RT-PCR tests and quarantining.