India will issue free tourist visas of 5 lakhs; grant easy loans to travel agents and tour guides
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday announced these measures to ensure the survival of the tourism sector ravaged by Covid as part of an economic package.
Pre-Covid 2019 saw nearly 1.1 crore of foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) who collectively spent $ 30 billion on leisure and business.
“The average daily stay of a foreign tourist in India is 21 days and his average daily expenditure per tourist is around $ 34 (Rs 2,400). Once the issuance of (tourist) visas resumes, the first 5 lakh tourist visas will be issued free of charge, ”Sitharaman said.
This benefit will only be available once per tourist. The program, which waives Rs 100 crore of income from this head, will be applicable until March 31, 2022 or until the issuance of the first 5 lakh visas.
The “tourism revival” package for more than 11,000 registered tourist guides and travel agents is in the form of a new loan guarantee scheme where working capital or personal loans will be provided to people in the tourism sector. to fulfill their responsibilities and restart businesses affected by the pandemic.
“The program will cover 10,700 regional level tourist guides recognized by the government, both the Union Ministry of Tourism and the states; and 904 travel and tourism actors (travel agents) recognized by the Union Ministry of Tourism. The loans will be 100% guaranteed. Up to Rs 10 lakh per agency and Rs 1 lakh per tourist guide. There will be no processing fee as well as waiver of foreclosure / prepayment fees. No additional guarantees will be required, ”said the Minister of Finance.
Travel has been among the worst victims of the pandemic. The Federation of Indian Tourism and Hospitality Associations (FAITH), an umbrella body for the Indian tourism industry, had in March – just before the second wave – warned that nearly 70% of the estimated workforce The country’s 5.5 crore (direct and indirect jobs) sector could find itself unemployed – around 3.8 million people – due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He said the Indian tourism industry was facing bankruptcies, business closures and mass unemployment. More than Rs 5 lakh crores of the direct tourism industry and almost double the total economic activity are at risk, he said.
According to the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India, nearly half of all hotels and restaurants in the country have closed permanently. Airlines and airport operators struggle to survive. With no inbound tourism activity, travel agents, tour guides and anyone related to the travel industry are facing a tough time. The travel industry has since last year asked for immediate relief from the government.
Prior to the second wave, Indian airlines and airport operators had called for the resumption of inbound foreign tourism. It was even being considered for travelers from countries safe for Covid earlier this year. But the devastating second wave changed everything.
“The government’s proposal to provide free tourist visas to the first 5 lakh tourists, once visa issuance is restored, is a welcome first step that will help revive inbound tourism to India, which has been at a standstill since the start of the year. the pandemic, ”Mandeep said. S Lamba, president of HVS ANAROCK (South Asia).