India has begun issuing tourist visas to overseas travellers after suspending them in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, but travel service providers said the response has been lukewarm so far.
Last month, the Union home ministry had said it would begin granting fresh tourist visas to foreigners coming to India through chartered flights with effect from October 15. It had also said that foreign tourists coming to India from flights other than chartered aircraft would be able to do so with effect from November 15.
“The rules have been inconsistent and the air bubble arrangement flights are full. The fares are also very steep. Why would tourists come at these rates?” said Rajeev Kohli, Joint Managing Director, Creative Travel. “None of our overseas partners have (sic) expressed an interest. Customers have choices and the other countries have been easing restrictions. They also want to rebuild their share of the travel pie“.
Jyoti Mayal, president of the Travel Agents Association of India, said she will write a letter to the ministries of civil aviation, tourism, external affairs and three other ministries on Tuesday, urging them to resume scheduled commercial international flights.
Air bubble flights won’t be sufficient and competitive enough. Essential travel will happen but tourism won’t happen unless flight prices become reasonable. Leisure travellers won’t come otherwise,” she said.
Rajiv Mehra, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, said the air bubble flight fares are probably three to four times the normal fares. “The government must look at operating the flights as per the bilateral agreements which were in place before March last year. Also, e-tourist visas have not opened for Canada and the UK. The UK is a big source market. The response would be low and it could stay so for months,” he said.
R Parthiban, Director, Swagatam Tours, said while there have been “reciprocal issues” with some countries, there has also been a lot of ambiguity regarding travel rules and requirements such as RT-PCR tests and quarantining.
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