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Wednesday, Dec 22, 2004

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Travel trade hoping Malaysia will introduce visa on arrival

Our Bureau

Chennai , Dec. 21

THE travel trade in India is hoping that Malaysia will announce visa on arrival facility for all Indian tourists so that tourism between the two countries will grow. The trade is waiting for such an announcement now, especially since the Malaysian Prime Minister, Mr Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, is on a visit to India.

The travel trade is also hoping that the scheme introduced by Malaysia asking travel agents to furnish a bank guarantee of Rs 3.50 lakh to avail of the Internet visa facility, on a pilot basis in Chennai, would be done away with.

According to the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), a body representing travel agents in the country, the Malaysian Assistant High Commissioner launched visa through the Internet from February 2004 and asked travel agents having to furnish a bank guarantee of Rs 3.5 lakh, in Chennai on a pilot basis to be later extended to other cities.

The association said that it had repeatedly represented against this move and asked for it to be done away to facilitate smoother flow of tourists from India to Malaysia. It had also asked its members not to pay the bank guarantee and disciplinary action had been taken against those who had paid the money. The association is now hoping that a favourable announcement would be made during the visit of the Malaysian Prime Minister.

During meetings with Malaysian Government ministers and officials, the association had told them that the bank guarantee scheme had not taken off. Only 17 TAAI members had so far paid the bank guarantee out of over 250 travel agents in and around Chennai. As alternative measures, the association suggested that the Malaysian High Commission and Assistant High Commission could issue identity cards to those travel agents in whom they have trust and confidence; the consular authorities could deal with those members certified by the associations; and the high commission could ask bank guarantee or deposit from passengers about whom they are not confident. The travel agents had been told that the bank guarantee scheme had been started for security reasons.

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