Tuesday, June 29, 2021

India to issue free 5 lakh tourist visas; give easy loans to travel agents & tour guides

New Delhi: The first 5 lakh tourist visas issued once India allows entry to this category of visitors will be issued free of charge. And government-recognised travel agents and tour guides will now be eligible for loan of up to Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 lakh, respectively, without any processing charges or additional collateral requirement.

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced these steps to ensure survival of the Covid-ravaged tourism sector as part of an economic package on Monday.

Pre-Covid 2019 saw almost 1.1 crore foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) who collectively spent $30 billion on leisure and business.

“The average daily stay for a foreign tourist in India is 21 days and their average daily spending per tourist is about $34 (Rs 2,400). Once (tourism) visa issuance resumes, the first 5 lakh tourists visas will be issued free of charge,” Sitharaman said.

This benefit will be available only once per tourist. The scheme, which forgoes Rs 100 crore revenue from this head, will be applicable till March 31, 2022 or till the first 5 lakh visas are issued.

The “reviving tourism” package for over 11,000 registered tourist guides and travel stakeholders comes in the form of a new loan guarantee scheme where working capital or personal loans will be provided to people in tourism sector to discharge liabilities and restart businesses impacted due to the pandemic.

“The scheme will cover 10,700 regional level tourist guides recognised by the government, both Union tourism ministry and states; and 904 travel and tourism stakeholders (travel agents) recognised by Union tourism ministry. Loans will be provided with 100% guarantee. Up to Rs 10 lakh per agency and Rs 1 lakh per tourist guide. There will be no processing charges along with waiver of foreclosure/prepayment charges. No additional collateral will be required,” the finance minister said.

28/06/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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