Thanks India for easy visas

BANGKOK, 10 April 2017: India might be a giant in the outbound travel stakes capable of  challenging even China in the long-run, but it is often classed as an under achiever in the lucrative inbound travel market.

That is likely to change as India continues to liberalise and open its visa procedures.

Last year, India attracted 8.89 million visits in 2016, representing an increase of 10.2%. Some of the credit for growth should go to the government’s decision make it easier to obtain visas.

Last week, the efforts continued with the government announcing that business and medical travel visitors were also eligible for the popular user-friendly eVisa.

Previously it was limited to leisure travel.

The e-Tourist, e-Business visa and e-Medical visas have also been extended to 161 countries for entry through 24 gateway airports, up from 16 airports earlier and three Indian sea ports; Cochin, Goa and Mangalore to tap cruise tourism potential.

It’s good news from a country that has in the past entwined visitors in a web of complicated procedures and time-consuming visits to embassies.

For governments the eVisa option is preferable to visa-free entry as it allows immigration officials to pre-check applications for security purposes but makes it convenient for the traveller to apply for a visa without time consuming or expensive trips to embassies.

Thailand needs to play catch up. It does not offer an eVisa and it should. There have promises that one will be introduced by the end of the year. That would be a welcome move.