Muscat: In a bid to woo more tourists and earn more foreign currency, India decided yesterday to extend visa-on-arrival facility to tourists from 40 more countries, including Oman, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, the US, the UK, Canada, Brazil, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. According to a senior official from the Planning Commission, there was broad consensus on liberalising the overall visa regime at a high-level meeting hosted by the Planning Commission.
Officials from the department of tourism, Ministry of Home Affairs, Intelligence Bureau and the National Security Adviser Shiv Shanker Menon participated in the meeting.
"We have made a set of recommendations to the Home Ministry to liberalise the visa regime which will not be looked into from a security point of view before coming at a conclusion," Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia told the Indian media.
Officials said one of the recommendations which were made after the meeting was to bring down the number of categories of visa from the existing 16 to just three.
"There should be just three categories of visa, the first employment visa, second business visa (for people who travel frequently) and third visitor visa (which should cover all other types of visa requirements," the official said.
On visa-on-arrival, the official said that the Home Ministry was of the view that it can be expanded to include more countries, but there is shortage of staff.
"The Ministry of Tourism has offered to share its budget with the Home Ministry so that more officers can be inducted to man immigration counters, which will facilitate visa-on-arrival," Ahluwalia said.
The size of picture required to get Indian visa could also be reduced to include all passport
Officials said the Planning Commission proposed that Indian tourism offices across the world should be closed down as such a cumbersome system is not required anymore. On security concerns too, officials said the Commission felt that is should not be a hindrance to boost tourism. In 2012, India received 6.58 million foreign tourists, up 4.3 per cent over the previous year, but this was lower than the 9.2 per cent growth in 2011. India's foreign exchange earnings in 2012 from tourists were $17.74 billion, showing an increase of 7.1 per cent year on year.
India's share in the international tourist receipts in the year 2012 was 0.64 per cent with overall ranking of 41. The country's share in international receipts in the year 2012 was 1.65 per cent with overall rank of 16.
Foreign exchange earnings from tourism during January to August 2013 were $12.025 billion with a growth of 6.7 per cent, as compared to $11.273 billion year-on-year.