International travel to India is a bit slow to pick up with just a little over 15,000 free tourist visas being issued so far out of the five lakh visas that were provisioned by the centre.

In June 2021, the Ministry of Finance had announced a scheme to offer free tourist visas till March 31, 2022. The scheme was applicable for the first 5 lakh visas that will be issued. A foreign tourist stays in India for 21 days on an average while spending around $34 (₹2,400) per day.

According to the official data, 10.93 million foreign tourists visited India in 2019 and spent $30 billion. “We are prepared to welcome back the tourists. Our vaccination programme is doing very well. Besides, all the stakeholders that are part of the tourism eco-system are being fully vaccinated on priority,” said a Tourism Ministry official.

Chartered flights

Last month, the government announced granting tourist visas to those travelling by chartered flights by October 15 and those by regular planes from November 15. The e-visa for India is available for the citizens of 156 countries. However, currently, China, Canada and Hong Kong are among the countries that cannot avail this facility.

“In routine years, tourists come to India between the October and March. So, inflow of travellers is expected from November 15 onwards. Even if we manage to do 25 per cent of our business compared to 2019 levels, it will be a good number for the industry,” said Kapil Goswamy, Managing Director, Trans-India Holidays.

According to Tourism Ministry officials, Russian tourists have not availed chartered service due to the spike in Covid-19 cases in Russia.

It is expected that the first chartered flight ferrying tourists to India will land in Goa, from the UK, in mid-December 2021.