India eyes tourism boost, lifts some visa restrictions
India is looking at issuing visas on arrival for visitors from 40 more countries, a minister has said, raising hopes it will overcome national security fears to boost its tourism industry.
A meeting of senior officials from the home, foreign and tourism ministries, as well as intelligence officers, concluded on Monday evening with a consensus in favour of the sweeping visa reform.
The new countries would include the United States and Britain -- the source of about 25 percent of all tourists last year -- as well as Canada, Brazil, Australia and most western European nations including France and Germany.
Despite its cultural attractions, beaches and mountains, India attracts relatively few foreign holidaymakers -- 6.58 million in 2012, which was about a quarter of Thailand or Malaysia, for example.
India currently issues visas on arrival to visitors from about a dozen foreign nations including Japan, Finland, Singapore, Indonesia, New Zealand and the Philippines among others.
All others must apply several weeks in advance and visit a visa-processing centre in person.
The proposed relaxation of the rules now require cabinet-level approval.
The proposed changes would also make it easier for elderly visitors and those wishing to attend conferences, the Press Trust of India reported.