Monday, September 20, 2021

India to allow charter flights as it gets ready to welcome tourists

Mumbai: Vaccinated foreign tourists would be allowed to visit India on charter flights as the government plans to relax entry restrictions. An announcement regarding the modalities and date for resumption of leisure travel is expected by the end of this month.

Last March the government clamped down on overseas air travel to curb spread of Covid-19. While businesspersons, healthcare professionals, technical specialists and overseas citizens of India have been allowed since last year, leisure travellers are still denied access.

Now, the government plans to open the doors for foreign tourists in a phased manner in view of decline in Covid-19 cases and widespread vaccination.

An official familiar with the matter said inter-ministerial discussions are going on and at first vaccinated tourists would be permitted to come to India on charter flights. “It will be a calibrated opening. A decision is expected in around a week,” he said.

Subhash Goyal, chairman of Stic Travels, however, said that the government should restart scheduled international flights with the opening of leisure travel. “Allowing foreign tourists to come but keeping scheduled flights under suspension will not serve any purpose. We have been in touch with our overseas trade partners and we can expect good demand in the winter season if a decision is announced now," he said.

The Union Home Ministry did not immediately respond to a query on this topic. In 2019 over 10.9 million foreign tourists visited India and contributed to over $ 30 billion in foreign exchange earnings.

As a part of its economic stimulus plan finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had in June announced that 500,000 tourist visas will be issued free of charge upon reopening of borders. The scheme would be applicable till March 31 and would reduce government income by around Rs 100 crore, she had said.

20/09/21 Aneesh Phadnis/Business Standard

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