India eyes high-value transit tourists

If you are transiting via New Delhi and Mumbai, you could soon make a quick dash to relish the Taj Mahal glory in Agra or the famed Hawa Mahal in Jaipur. A globalizing India is opening up to the business travelers, with its eyes firmly set on inviting these deep-pocket travelers transiting in New Delhi and Mumbai to scale up their spending on leisure and travel. Following the models of Dubai and Beijing, the Indian government is planning to relax transit visa norms and opening avenues for quick visits of up to 72 hours to tourist attractions in and around these cities.

Agra or Jaipur could come within the strike range of such business travelers availing the new regime once the government relaxes norms in line with international transit business, say the industry stakeholders.

The visa-free offer would be open to air passengers who are transiting, meaning travelers will have to show they have a ticket to a third country before being allowed out of the airport at Delhi and Mumbai. The relaxed norms are likely to be in place in the next few months but the buzz has already brought cheer to trade specialists.

Indian Association of Tour Operators (IOTA) president Subhash Goyal has maintained for long that the easy norms would invite in-transit business travelers, headed for south Asian countries, to spend some more time in India and boost the hospitality industry that attracts a little over 6.6 million foreign travelers annually.

Relaxed transit visa norms are now being adopted internationally. Beijing has announced that visitors could stay in Beijing for up to 72 hours (starting January 1) when they are in transit to a third country and this was followed by Shanghai.

The tourism ministry is understood to have discussed the issue with the home ministry, that deals with issues related to foreigners’ travel documents, for ensuring a smooth introduction of the traveler-friendly police.

In 2012, India earned over $17 billion in foreign exchange from tourism which was about 21 percent higher than the previous year.

Chronicling the changing trends in the inflow of foreign tourists, a study by two professors from West Delhi has revealed that the arrivals of tourists from Europe and North American continents has been drastically losing consistency.

The study ‘Foreign Tourist Arrivals to India: A Descriptive Study through Empirical Evidences’ by Debasish Batabyal, assistant professor, Tourism Studies in Durgapur Society of Management Science (DSMS), Durgapur, West Bengal, and Bidyut Kumar Ghosh, assistant professor of Supreme College of Engineering and Technology, Hooghly, West Bengal, said the drop in arrivals was due to the poor infrastructural level and internal civil unrest in various parts of the country and consequent negative promotion, poor hygiene level and hospitality from within the country.

Other important reasons are the global terrorism threat, the global economic recession and industrial downfall in developed countries, changes in civil aviation marketing, the rise in the number of competitive south/Asian destinations with distinct competitiveness and certain special types of tourism.

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