In a bid to lure more tourists to India, and to promote foreign exchange earnings, India is planning to extend visa-on-arrival facility to citizens of 40 more nations, including the U.S., UK, Canada, Brazil, Australia, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, according to reports.
“We have called a meeting on 7 October to discuss the possibility of extending tourist visa for 40 more countries as this could help in garnering more foreign exchange and containing the current account deficit,” Rajeev Shukla, planning minister, told Press Trust of India.
The current account deficit, or CAD -- the difference between inflow and outflow of foreign exchange -- was 4.8 percent of GDP or $88.2 billion in 2012-2013, and the government is planning to reduce it to under $70 billion, or 3.8 percent of the GDP, this fiscal year, according to reports.
“Tourism ministry has raised the issue of tourist visa regime as impediment in the growth of foreign visitors in the country which ultimately results in lesser foreign exchange earnings,” Shukla said, adding that the current visa regulations are believed to have driven tourists from Europe, Canada and the U.S. away from India and to neighboring countries such as Srilanka, Bhutan and Nepal.
More than six million foreign tourists visited India in 2012, and the country’s foreign exchange earnings recorded an increase of 7.1 percent year-on-year at $17.74 billion. The country's share in international receipts of tourist dollars in the year 2012 was 1.65 per cent with an overall rank of 16, PTI reported.
According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, or ASSOCHAM, India's foreign exchange earnings from tourism could reach $26 billion by 2015.
"The foreign exchange earned through tourism is critical to combat the rising current account deficit (CAD) and as such the government should look to boost foreign tourist inflow by easing its strict visa regime, entering into an agreement with various countries' through embassies and high commissions to strengthen tourism cooperation aiming at destination development, promotion, marketing and capacity building," D.S. Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM, told The Economic Times.
Keerthi Mohan is an IBTimes reporter covering entertainment and human interest stories.