Reciprocity versus common sense is becoming major trouble for the Indian tourism industry. How the sense of nationalism without common sense is affecting India’s own tourism industry that helps lakhs of people to earn their bread and butter.
I am still confused about the thoughts of the political leadership or the government regarding the life of the Covid Pandemic. Do they wish the Covid to be here forever so that they can fool people around?
After so many petitions and prayers from the Tourism Industry, the Indian Government made an announcement that the Indian borders will be opened to foreign tourists from 15 November. A few days later they announced that the E visas are resumed. And again a few days later they brought a guideline for international arrivals- a totally confusing, contradicting one with Category A list of countries and another list of countries that needs additional requirements to arrive in India. I was so excited to see that India has become so much in demand and foreign nationals are standing in a queue to arrive in India. Are we living in a fool’s paradise?
It was a big announcement that India will give 500000 free visas to tourists thinking that India will be flooded with Tourists in no time. And then comes the “ Reciprocity Treatment” which is a brand new diplomatic term founded in connection with Covid! First I thought this treatment is only in the case of vaccine acceptance but it’s funny that India wanted such a treatment in issuing visas too!
Recently when an Industry delegation visited Hon. Tourism Minister to address the concerns of the trade on the arrival protocols and quarantine norms etc, the Minister was so serious about the health and safety of the people of India. So it was okay for the people from Category A can arrive in India without any quarantine protocols, if fully vaccinated but other nationalities go for 7 days quarantine.
Initially, in Category A, there were only very few countries but in no time it is near to 100. I am happy. Still, I don’t understand the difference between these categories as long as the tourists are fully vaccinated. So if a traveller is arriving from a country where our vaccines are not accepted, then they can spread Covid in India and others not! Funny enough! Scandinavian nations like Denmark & Norway are not yet on the list, but somehow Sweden has scrawled in.
Now comes E Visa. Many Nationalities including the Brits, Canadians or even Americans are not allowed to apply for visas online as some kind of “ treatment” awaits those travellers! Are we looking for them to accept Indians through online visas as a part of reciprocity? British travellers have a big role in defining the fate of Indian tourism as it’s a strong source market for India. It’s so funny that we are still playing petty politics instead of trying to capitalise on the reopening of the borders and get some additional forex to our kitty. No idea who are the advisors to the government on this.
Whatever we may call it, whether Nationalism, Reciprocity or idiocy, we are the losers. The discarded Tourism Industry! None of the governments had a concern for the poor souls working in the Tourism Industry even after 20 months of zero business. And now when there is an opportunity for the trade to capitalise some business in this winter, the government plays nasty games to abort everything.
The insincere attitude of the Tourism Ministry is clearly evident in the latest notification of a special loan offer for Accredited Tour Operators to the tune of Rs Ten Lakhs. It was such a funny notification that advises the Tour operators to avail this loan of Ten Lakhs, but only one condition. You need to close your existing loan taken on ECLGS which means, to get a loan of 10 Lakhs, you need to close an existing loan of 25 Lakhs. What a generous attitude!
One of the largest employment creators, the Indian Tourism Industry, was bleeding for the last 20 months without any help from the government. Now they want to spoil an opportunity to survive and revive in a slow mode even. Such a pity for having an enterprise in India which doesn’t respect the hard work of the Tourism Sector! Let the National interests succeed and the Tourism warriors are martyrs for the Country!
(George Scaria is the Managing Director of Keralavoyages India Pvt Ltd, a Travelife Certified Tour Operator.)
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