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India to issue free 5 lakh tourist visas; give easy loans to travel agents & tour guides – Times of India


NEW DELHI: The first 5 lakh tourist visas issued once India allows entry to this category of visitors will be issued free of charge. And government-recognised travel agents and tour guides will now be eligible for loan of up to Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 lakh, respectively, without any processing charges or additional collateral requirement.
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced these steps to ensure survival of the Covid-ravaged tourism sector as part of an economic package on Monday.
Pre-Covid 2019 saw almost 1.1 crore foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) who collectively spent $30 billion on leisure and business.
“The average daily stay for a foreign tourist in India is 21 days and their average daily spending per tourist is about $34 (Rs 2,400). Once (tourism) visa issuance resumes, the first 5 lakh tourists visas will be issued free of charge,” Sitharaman said.
This benefit will be available only once per tourist. The scheme, which forgoes Rs 100 crore revenue from this head, will be applicable till March 31, 2022 or till the first 5 lakh visas are issued.
The “reviving tourism” package for over 11,000 registered tourist guides and travel stakeholders comes in the form of a new loan guarantee scheme where working capital or personal loans will be provided to people in tourism sector to discharge liabilities and restart businesses impacted due to the pandemic.
“The scheme will cover 10,700 regional level tourist guides recognised by the government, both Union tourism ministry and states; and 904 travel and tourism stakeholders (travel agents) recognised by Union tourism ministry. Loans will be provided with 100% guarantee. Up to Rs 10 lakh per agency and Rs 1 lakh per tourist guide. There will be no processing charges along with waiver of foreclosure/prepayment charges. No additional collateral will be required,” the finance minister said.
Travel has been among the worst victims of the pandemic. The Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH), an apex body of Indian tourism industry, had this March — just before the second wave — warned that almost 70% of the country’s estimated workforce of 5.5 crores (direct and indirect jobs) of the sector could get unemployed — about 3.8 crore people — as an impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
It had said Indian tourism industry is staring at bankruptcies, closure of businesses and mass unemployment. Over Rs 5 lakh crores of direct tourism industry and almost double that of total economic activity is at risk it had said.
According to the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India almost half of all hotels and restaurants in the country have shut down permanently. Airlines and airport operators are struggling to survive. With no inbound tourist business, travel agents, tour guides and everyone connected to the travel sector is facing a tough time. The travel industry has since last year been seeking some immediate relief from the government.
Both Indian airlines and airport operators had before the second wave requested resumption of foreign inbound tourism. This was even being considered for travellers from Covid safe countries earlier this year. But the devastating second wave changed everything.
“The government’s proposal to provide free tourist visas to the first 5 lakh tourists, once visa issuance resumes, is a welcome first step that will help revive India’s inbound tourism, which has been on a halt since the onset of the pandemic,” said Mandeep S Lamba, HVS ANAROCK president (South Asia).





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