India considering opening borders to foreign tourists
With Covid-19 cases on a sharp decline over the last few months, India may soon allow foreign tourists for the first time in one and half years, the country's home ministry officials said.
Top ministry officials are deliberating with all stakeholders on the expected date and modalities for opening borders to foreign tourists.
A formal announcement allowing foreign tourists to visit India may come within the next ten days, an official from the home ministry said.
The decision is being considered given the declining number of Covid-19 cases in the country.
Today, 30,773 new cases have been reported, while overall active cases in the country came down to 3.32 lakh.
India's Covid-19 vaccination coverage has crossed 80 crores as of Saturday.
The first five lakh foreign tourists will be issued visas free of cost in an attempt to revive the pandemic-battered domestic tourism, hospitality, and aviation sectors, as per an earlier announcement made by the government.
Free visas will be issued till March 31, 2022, or until five lakh visas have been issued, whichever is earlier. The total financial allocation for this would be Rs 100 crore.
The official also said the free visa move is expected to incentivise tourists visiting India for a short duration.
The cost for a month-long e-tourist visa is around USD 25. A year-long multiple entry e-tourists visa charge is around USD 40.
The e-tourist visa has been suspended since March 2020.
The Home Ministry officials said they are still deliberating whether the entry of foreign tourists will be allowed with certain conditions like limiting it to only vaccinated travelers for now and having a list of countries where Covid-19 cases remain a concern.
The opening of borders is also expected to be in phases to evaluate the responses and implications, another official said.