Panaji: Worried tourism stakeholders, led by the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), have asked Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to raise with the Center the issue of issuing electronic visas to citizens of the Kingdom UK and other countries that have been excluded so far.
Goa received no charter tourists last season, while another category of travelers – Free and Independent Travelers (FIT) – largely avoided visiting India after the UK was barred from the list of countries eligible for indian e-visas.
“We want the Chief Minister to raise the matter with the Centre. If UK citizens continue to be ineligible for e-visas, footsteps from the country will be negligible for another season,” said TTAG Chairman Nilesh Shah.
After Russia, the UK is the state’s largest market and receives regular tourists. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has radically changed the situation. “Although the growth of the domestic segment has been overwhelming, we are concerned about foreign arrivals. Last season, after receiving a British charter program, it was canceled when the country was on the list of countries at risk, ”said a tour operator.
With most regular British customers being elderly, hotelier Savio Messias said it was difficult to get to the Indian Embassy in London for visa formalities. Recently, a couple who were about to book a trip to India canceled after going through the arduous process required to obtain a visa.
“A trip to London involves an overnight stay for them and would cost almost as much as one of their flights to India,” he said.
A tour operator said British visitors are the second most numerous non-SAARC travelers to India and it is sad to lose so many guests because UK passport holders are no longer eligible for e-visas.
Shah said that in addition to this problem, tourism stakeholders have also called on the CM to end police harassment of tourists. “We also complained about the prevalence of touts. You find them on beaches, outside casinos, and in other tourist areas that harass tourists. We have to stop this,” he said.
The issue of tourist safety was also discussed as even a small incident can affect the image of the state, he said.