FM announces free visas to 5 lakh tourists; financial support to guides, stakeholders

The government will provide free visas to 5 lakh tourists visiting India, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Monday.

Announcing measures to revive the tourism sector battered by COVID-19, Sitharaman said financial support would be provided to more than 11,000 registered tourist guides, travel and tourism stakeholders. She said once the visa issuance for international travel is restarted, the first five lakh tourists will be issued visas free of charge.

The total financial implication of this measure would be Rs 100 crore. The scheme would be applicable till March 31, 2022, or till 5 lakh visas are issued, whichever is earlier. This would incentivise short-term tourists visiting India, she said.

The government will also provide working capital or personal loans to people in the tourism sector to discharge liabilities or restart businesses impacted due to COVID-19. Loans will be provided with 100 per \cent guarantee with a limit of Rs 10 lakh for travel and tourism stakeholders and Rs 1 lakh for registered tourist guides.

Sitharaman further said that Rs 23,220 crore more will be provided for public health. This would have special focus on short-term emergency preparedness with special emphasis on children/paediatric care/paediatric beds. The measures are part of a slew of announcements made by the finance minister on Monday for economic revival.