Goa urges Krishna to hasten tourist visa processing

Panaji, Nov 10 (IANS) Worried about stringent visa norms resulting in long-haul European tourists dropping Goa from their itinerary, the state government has knocked at the door of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna for help.

In a formal statement issued here Wednesday, state tourism director Swapnil Naik said that the Goa government has urged Krishna to reduce processing time for tourist visas for fear of losing out on international tourists, mostly Europeans and Russians.

‘S.M. Krishna has promised to review the situation and possibly reduce the time required for processing tourist visas from the present three weeks to about a week or 10 days,’ Naik said.

The official added that the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), an organisation of industry stakeholders, had approached the state government claiming that the new visa norms, which force a foreign tourist to leave the country mandatorily for a month’s cooling period, after spending only three months in India, was strangulating the state’s tourism industry.

TTAG officials had also complained that delay in processing visa applications was resulting in flight of foreign tourists from Goa.

‘When TTAG approached us on this visa issue, we forwarded the matter to the state tourism minister as well as the chief minister immediately,’ he said.

The state government’s appeal to the external affairs ministry comes days after a Poland-based charter flight tour operator was forced to postpone his Goa itinerary by several weeks, due to delay in the processing of visas of nearly 1,500 Polish tourists by New Delhi.

‘We were expecting the first chartered fight from Poland to arrive by first week of November but due to time-consuming visa formalities, they will not start operations before December 15,’ said Ralph de Souza, spokesperson for the TTAG.

He added that such delays would put off foreign tourists, who would skip coming to Goa for a winter vacation.

Goa, with its long coastline and sunny beaches, annually attracts 2.5 million tourists, of whom nearly half a million are foreigners.

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