Foreign tourist arrivals up: Minister

Panaji, March 6 (IANS) India witnessed an unprecedented 21 percent rise in foreign tourist arrivals last December from the same month in 2008, Union Tourism Minister Kumari Selja said Saturday.

She added that the new visa on arrival (VOA) scheme for foreign tourists from select nations could give a further boost to the tourism industry.

Speaking at the inauguration of the regional conference of tourism ministers of western states and union territories here, Selja said that after wading through troubled waters during the global recession, the tourism industry in India was finally back on track.

‘Our foreign tourist arrival figures during the last three months have shown an encouraging trend. In fact, December 2009 witnessed an unprecedented rise of 21 percent growth in comparison to the corresponding period during the previous year,’ she said, attributing the growth to aggressive marketing and concerted efforts of all stakeholders.

The minister said the tourism ministry’s latest initiative of VOA, which came into effect in January, could lead to cheer for the industry as far as arrivals are concerned.

‘The scheme is presently applicable to tourists coming from Singapore, Finland, New Zealand, Luxembourg and Japan. We expect this move will give a tremendous boost to inbound tourism,’ she said, adding the VOA endeavour had already sent positive signals to markets in these countries.

Selja, while responding to an issue raised by Goa Tourism Minister Mickky Pacheco over new visa regulations introduced last year pertaining to the entry of foreign nationals holding long-term tourist visas, said the changes in visa norms had triggered confusion in the minds of foreign tourists.

‘We will take it up with the ministry of external affairs. Yes it has created a problem,’ she said.

Pacheco had said the new guidelines of the union home ministry were causing an adverse effect on the inflow of tourists to Goa.

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