New Delhi: Amid a drop in Covid cases in the country, India may soon reopen its doors to foreign tourists for the first time in a year and a half, officials said.
The first five lakh foreign tourists will be issued visas for free in a bid to revive the tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, when a national lockdown has been announced.
The senior officials of the Union’s Ministry of the Interior are deliberating with all the stakeholders on the date and the modalities planned for the opening of the country to foreign tourists.
An official announcement allowing foreign tourists to visit India could arrive within the next 10 days, an interior ministry official said.
The decision is made in light of the decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
As of Sunday, 30,773 new cases were reported while active cases fell to 3.32 lakh.
India’s COVID-19 vaccine coverage also crossed 80 crore as on Saturday.
The free visa for tourists will be issued until March 31, 2022 or the issuance of a five lakh visa, whichever comes first. The total financial implication for this would be Rs 100 crore.
The free visa transfer is expected to entice short-term tourists to visit India, the official said.
The cost for a one-month e-tourist visa is country specific but is approximately $ 25. One-year multiple-entry e-tourist visa fee is approximately $ 40.
The e-tourist visa has been suspended since March 2020.
Interior Ministry officials said they are still deliberating whether the entry of foreign tourists would be allowed under certain conditions, such as limiting it to only vaccinated travelers for now and having a negative list of countries where COVID-19 cases remain a concern.
The opening should also be gradual to see the answer and the implications, another official said.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)