The e-tourist visa scheme by the Indian government is trying to impose itself as the game-changer for the country’s tourism industry. But the announcement of a mammoth growth figure of 266 pc on e-visa arrival in April 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, contrasts sharply with a more modest growth so far in total foreign tourist arrivals (FTA).
The e-tourist visa facility was launched on November 27, 2014 and was available for citizens of 113 countries arriving in 16 Indian airports until February 25, 2016. The Ministry of Tourism, India extended the scheme for travellers of another 37 countries starting from February 26, 2016.
Witnessing a high growth in visitor numbers from 150 countries now, India recorded 70,045 arrivals on e-tourist visa in April 2016. During the same period in 2015, India received only 19,139 foreign tourists availing the e-visa. The yearly growth (+266 pc) is impressive but the figures remain relatively modest compared to other Asian destinations such as Thailand. Thus the speculation about India’s tourism industry being one of the strongest markets in Southeast Asia in terms of attracting foreign visitors is still prevalent in many international markets.
Travellers from the United Kingdom continue to hold the top position followed by United States of America and Russia amongst the top 10 e-visa applying nations. The percentage shares of top 10 source countries during April, 2016 were: UK 18.82 pc, USA 14.08 pc, Russia 8.16 pc, France 7.12 pc, China 6.31 pc, Australia 4.67 pc, Germany 4.32 pc, Canada 3.70 pc, Thailand 2.09 pc and Netherlands 1.93 pc.
New Delhi, Mumbai and Goa top airports
The percentage shares of top 10 airports in tourist arrivals on e-tourist visa during April, 2016 were: New Delhi Airport (46.48 pc), Mumbai Airport (19.09 pc), Goa Airport (9.96 pc), Bengaluru Airport (6.48 pc), Chennai Airport (5.55 pc), Kochi Airport (3.02 pc), Kolkata Airport (2.50pc), Hyderabad Airport (2.23 pc), Trivandrum Airport (1.44 pc) and Amritsar Airport (1.37 pc).
The upward trend is also strong for e-tourist visas since the beginning of this year: in January- April, a total of 391,094 tourists arrived on e-Tourist Visa as compared to 94,998 during January – April 2015, registering a growth of 311.7 pc.
The Indian tourism industry expected a boost from the electronic visa scheme in terms of FTAs. However, time will reveal whether the e-tourist visa regime can actually attract the other frequently travelling tribes of the world or not.
Last year, the boost was still relatively modest. Responding to the electronic visa facility, 2015 witnessed a growth rate of 4.5 pc in terms of Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in India. During 2015, FTAs were 8.03 million as compared to 7.68 million in 2014. FTAs during the period January-March 2016 were 2.51 million with a growth of 10 pc as compared to the FTAs of 2.28 million in January-March 2015. The foreign exchange earnings during January – December 2015 was INR 1351.93 billion as compared to INR 1233.2 billion during 2014 thereby registering the growth of 9.6%.
But if you look at it on a longer perspective, the introduction of e-tourist visa including the extension of Visa on Arrival facility to the nationals of Japan have improved the outlook of tourism in India. The global footfall figures in India during 2013, 2014 and 2015 were 6.97 million, 7.68 million and 8.03 million, respectively.