The Finance Minister of Indian Union, Nirmala Sitaraman has made the announcement that the Government of India will issue 5 lakh tourist visas for free.
The move is set to help the faster recovery of the hard-hit tourism and hospitality industry of India..
As of now, the Indian government has paused international travel by closing the borders. Once the government reopens the visa issuance for international travelers, the first 5 lakh tourists will be rewarded with no cost on an Indian visa.
The free visa scheme will be valid till March 31st, 2022 or when the target of 5 lakh visas is achieved, whichever is earlier. This free visa scheme for international travelers has a financial implication of around ₹100 crores (approx.).
It is believed that this scheme will help short term travelers to India and hasten the recovery process.
Once the free visa offering scheme expires, international tourists would need to pay the regular fees like India used to charge before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, the Union Minister also said in the press conference that loans of up to INR 10 lakh will be provided to travel agencies and up to INR 1 Lakh for licensed tourist guides. This move is aimed at incentivizing India’s struggling tourism sector in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
Addressing a press conference on July 28th, 2021, the Finance Minister also announced that the Centre will also provide relief measures for up to 11,000 registered tourist guides, stakeholders, and travel agencies. This would be done to help people restart their businesses affected due to the COVID-19 wave. [REF]
In addition, those who are involved in this sector legally would get benefits under a personal loan or working loan with a 100% guarantee. Plus, no processing charges and waivers of pre-payment charges would be imposed – according to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman.
Free visas will be issued once the government reopens borders for leisure tourists, and working capital or personal loans will be provided to travel firms and registered tourist guides to discharge liabilities and restart their business.
According to the industry stakeholders, these measures will act as big boosters and support the tourism and hospitality industry and the stakeholders. The relief is expected to hasten the recovery and bring things back on track post-pandemic.
Worldwide, the Covid-19 crisis cost the global tourism sector $1.3 trillion in lost revenue in 2020, the United Nations said in January, calling it “the worst year in tourism history”.