India is all set to welcome back foreign tourists after almost 19 months of being closed for international tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that the daily COVID case count in most parts of the country is gradually declining and India’s vaccination drive is in full swing, the Indian Government has decided to restart issuing tourist visas from October 15. However, foreign tourists will be allowed entry into India only via chartered flights for a month.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, foreigners traveling to India by chartered flights (either bubble flights under Vande Bharat mission or any scheduled or non-scheduled commercial flights allowed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation) can apply for fresh tourist visas as early as October 15, whereas those traveling by non-chartered flights will have to wait a month longer till November 15 to be able to fly to India. These international travelers traveling will be served by air bubble flights until the suspension on scheduled commercial flights is not lifted.
Inbound tourism will start with all COVID protocols in place. “All due protocols and norms relating to COVID-19 as notified by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare from time to time, shall be adhered to by the foreign tourists, carriers bringing them into India and all other stakeholders at landing stations,” said the official press release.
It was also stated in the press release that the Indian government’s move to restore tourist visas comes after contemplation of inputs from state governments and various stakeholders in the tourism sector, all of whom requested the central government to allow inbound tourism ‘given the present overall COVID-19 situation’.
The Union Home Ministry made it clear that foreign tourists planning to travel to India must get fresh visas as the existing ones stand suspended. It stated, “The bureau of immigration, Indian mission and posts abroad may grant fresh single-entry e-tourist or tourist visas for 30 days. Existing e-tourist visas shall remain suspended.”
Restoring Indian tourist visas is expected to revive tourism, aviation, and hospitality sectors that bore the brunt of pandemic-induced restrictions.
As part of the measures mapped out to boost tourism, the Indian Government had earlier announced free tourist visas to the first five lakh applicants once the suspension on international travel is lifted.