E-visa facility drives up GCC tourist arrivals to India

The Golden Chariot, a luxury tourist train that connects Karnataka, Goa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu

India, the land of diverse cultures and traditions, has witnessed an uptick in the number of foreign tourist arrivals (FTA), thanks to the introduction of the e-visa facility, which was launched in 2014 and is currently available to 167 nationalities.

India has recorded a 30 per cent growth in issuance of e-visas, which has also largely driven up tourist numbers from the Middle East to the country.

In 2018, tourism arrivals to India neared 10.5 million, which is a growth of 4 per cent to 5 per cent year-on-year.
Speaking to the media at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai recently, Vipul, consul general, consulate general of India, Dubai, said the e-visa facility - which was recently extended to citizens of Saudi Arabia - has been a game-changer for the growth of the country’s tourism sector.

“I am happy that India is showcasing its tourism potential yet again at the Arabian Travel Market. India has immense opportunities for tourism, whether it is related to sight-seeing, spirituality, wellness, shopping, sports or other activities.”

“The government of India has liberalized and simplified its visa regime for tourists and our consulate has also played its part in facilitating the travel of Emiratis and foreign nationals to India from the UAE,” said Vipul.

As per the report of World Travel & Tourism Council, India is ranked at third place in Power Ranking for 2018, jumping from seventh place in 2017.

Showcasing India as a year-round multi-faceted tourist destination, the Indian Pavilion featured 20 exhibitors, including State Tourism Department of Kerala, Air India, hotels/resorts, wellness spas and Ayurvedic centres, who showcased unique products in the heritage, luxury, Mice, wellness, wildlife and medical tourism segments.

Vibhav Tripathi, assistant director general, India's Ministry of Tourism, said India has emerged as a destination for medical/wellness travel in the GCC. "The percentage of foreign tourist arrivals visiting India for medical treatment has been increasing over the years and growing rapidly."

Tripathi said India is poised to become a hub for medical tourism because of several factors including world class hospitals with latest technology, highly skilled Indian physicians and surgeons, cost effective treatment, excellent quality of care and nursing and less waiting time for availing of medical services.

While India continues to enjoy an increase in visitor numbers from around the world, its aim is to make the Middle East one of its top 10 source markets.

“There has been a consistent and positive growth of FTAs from this region to India and the aim is to further accelerate the pace of growth rate in international tourist arrivals over the next three years through a multi-pronged approach, including proactive marketing strategies in partnership with our tourism stakeholders," said Tripathi.