By Elton Gomes
The United Arab Emirates will now grant free 48-hour transit visas to Indian tourists. The transit visas can be extended by a period of 96 hours for a cost of 50 dirhams (approximately Rs 1,000). UAE’s move to ease visa rules comes after India overtook Saudi Arabia to emerge as the leading source market for Dubai in 2017.
After introducing the ease in rules, the UAE has become the latest country to relax visa and entry procedures for Indian tourists. Along with the UAE, Israel, Japan, and other countries have now made it easier for Indian tourists to visit.
Countries that have eased visa norms
Stepping up its efforts to attract Indian tourists, Israel had planned to ease its visa norms, as reported by PTI in March 2017. Senior officials also said that Israel planned to increase its promotional budgetary allocation to $2.5 million during the past two years. Amir Halevi, director general of Israel’s tourism ministry told PTI, “We realise that India is going to be one of the top three countries sending tourists to Israel and so we have started to invest a lot in marketing our tourism potential there.”
Halevi added that about 50,000 Indians visit Israel every year. He expressed confidence that this number can be doubled given the size of India’s population.
A spokesperson from Israel’s tourism ministry said that “given the importance of India as an emerging market for incoming tourism to Israel, the Tourism Ministry has submitted a request to ease the visa restrictions on Indian tour groups wishing to visit the country.” To further provide seamless travel experience, Halevi said that the “game changer” in these efforts would be the introduction of direct flights between India and Israel.
In November 2017, Japan said it would simplify its visa rules starting January 1, 2018, for Indian tourists. In addition, Japan would issue multiple-entry-visa for a short-term stay, a move that was certain to benefit repeat visitors, business persons, and tourists alike.
The Japanese embassy stated that the scope of eligible applicants would also be expanded, and the relaxed visa conditions would also feature simplification of visa application documents.
New Zealand also announced that it would be offering visas to business travellers attending conferences and events within three days instead of the current processing time of 10-12 days. In 2013, New Zealand attracted approximately 35,000 Indian tourists. Out of these, 8% were business visitors and 2% came for conferences and events. To boost the number of visitors, the government signed a MoU with six tour operators and promised a visa within three days to Indians attending conferences and events.
In February 2018, Zimbabwe introduced visa on arrival for travellers from 28 countries, including India. Provided that travellers have their travel documents in place, they could avail their visa on arrival. The move is an improvement from the previous policy wherein visas were processed through the embassy in New Delhi and would take up to five days.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.