With travel and tourism being considered an important pillar for socio-economic and cultural development in India, the sense of urgency to strengthen tourism has grown. India is ranked 40th out of 138 countries in the 2018 Travel and Tourism Competitive Index of the World Economic Forum. India has jumped 25 places, improving upon its ranking as 65th in 2014. Tourism has been a steady contributor to GDP, accounting for 9.6 per cent of total GDP, and employment generation which is estimated to be around 1.4 million in 2018. New schemes such as ‘Swadesh Darshan Yojana’ and ‘PRASAD’ aimed at creating tourism circuits under specific themes are already influencing tourist footfalls and exchange earnings topped with the required infrastructural boost. Furthermore, the launch of ‘Incredible India 2.0’ this year is aimed at making India an ‘all seasons destination’ and focusses on developing new niches to attract tourists. This is a welcome move since seasonality still acts as an Achilles heel for the Indian tourism sector especially during the period of May to October.
If one looks at successful tourism development in different countries, one of the crucial aspects is how feasible and stress free is the process of getting a visa. A country might have rich tourism resources but if the visa process is tedious, the country will not be able to capitalise these touristic resources. More countries are making their visa process quicker and more accessible. This not only helps in bringing in more revenue, but also results in increasing a country’s soft power dynamics. (India can take a leaf out of foreign countries’ visa policies in this regard�elaborate on this point to connect it to next para and mention that this will be a two-part blog. Part I detailing other countries’ visa policies for India and Part II detailing India’s visa policy towards others.)
Soft power dynamics can be seen in the visa process of the United States of America (USA) and United Kingdom (UK). For travelling to USA as a tourist, one is required to apply through the B1/B2 visa with an extravagant non-refundable visa fee of USD 160 and 60 days are required to get the visa and yet, there are no certainties. Similarly, the UK tourist visa or as the UK nomenclature says ‘Standard Visitor Visa’ has a long list of document requirements and the process must be initiated 3 months prior to travel dates. For 6 months the fee is approximately USD 122 and usually takes up to 3 weeks for a decision. The US refusal rate of B1/B2 category visas in 2014 was 19.4 per cent for Indians and has gone up in 2017 to approximately 23.29 per cent. However, when one looks at visa process and rules for popular tourist or commercial destinations, they are simpler, less time consuming and encourage more visitors. For instance, a destination like Thailand has Visa on Arrival for 21 countries with a nominal fee of USD 62 and the only documents required are a valid passport and tickets indicating arrival and departure. Similarly, Singapore has divided countries into Assessment Level I and Assessment Level II countries which allows people to live in Singapore for 30 to 90 days with a fee of approximately USD 30 without a visa. Hence, around 80 per cent of world’s nationalities can travel into Singapore with a valid Passport and tickets.
This blog tried to analyse the visa policy of a few selected countries with the most stringent and easy processes. In the next blog, we will take a look at the Indian visa policy and analyse the changes and the room for improvement.
Visa statistics – USA
Visa statistics – USA