The Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), a national tourism industry body with 1,600 members representing all segments of tour operators said it has made numerous representations to the Ministries of Tourism, Home Affairs, and External Affairs requesting the restoration of e-tourist visas for the UK and Canada.
IATO has now reached out to the Prime Minister’s office in order to expedite the resolution of issues affecting the travel industry.
The association has written to Prime Minister Modi requesting his intervention in restoring e-Tourist visas for the United Kingdom, Canada, and other key source markets, as these countries send the vast majority of foreign tourists to India.
IATO President Rajiv Mehra stated, “Having failed to evoke any response from these ministries, we have written to the PM, hoping for a quick resolution,” The letter was sent on October 6, he added.
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India e-Tourist Visa
Following the pandemic in March 2020, the e-tourist visa program—which was available to citizens of 166 nations, including the UK and Canada—was discontinued. After a break of 18 months, it was partially resumed in late 2021 under air bubble arrangements and Covid-19 protocols.
According to a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) order, the government reinstated the e-Tourist Visa facility for 156 countries in March 2022.
According to Mehra, the UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman were not included in the March order. She adds that they were given the “security reasons” for this during meetings with MHA and MEA officials over the previous year.
IATO has received several requests from its members and international counterparts expressing concern about the visa delays, according to Mehra. Since there is currently no e-tourist visa available, intending travellers in the UK are having trouble obtaining a regular visa for India.
“Appointments are not available to intending foreign tourists at the VFS Global offices in the UK. It is taking six to eight weeks time in the UK to get a normal Indian visa and even for that also, appointments by the VFS Global offices are not being given.”
“Handling of normal paper visa for India by the Embassy in the UK/VFS Global is very discouraging and harassing for the tourists planning to come to India as it is taking two to three months to get a normal tourist Visa and that too after a lot of efforts,” Mehra added expressing concern.