'Visa on arrival' system being planned: Ambika Soni

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New Delhi, Jan 22 (UNI) Seeking to woo tourists from ASEAN countries in a big way, Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni today said her ministry was keen to introduce 'visa on arrival' and exuded confidence that the target of one million tourist arrivals from South East Asian countries to India by 2010 would be met.

''Last year, India had introduced long duration visas for passengers on a pilot basis. We hope to expand this facility to ASEAN countries. Our next goal will be to introduce 'visa on arrival' system,'' Ms Soni said, while addressing a meeting of India-ASEAN Tourism Ministers in Bangkok.

Some of the ASEAN countries had successfully introduced this facility, reaping huge benefits in terms of increased tourist traffic, she said, making a strong case for simplification of visa procedure.

''Such a facility would be in place with the modernisation of India's airports,'' she pointed out.

Ms Soni said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while attending the last India-ASEAN Summit in Singapore in November 2007, had announced a target of one million tourist arrivals from ASEAN to India by 2010.

''With increased air and road connectivity between our two regions, and the vast tourism infrastructure that we are creating in our country will, I believe, make this target achievable.'' Ms Soni informed that India is developing world class tourism infrastructure around 15 of its most important heritage sites, such as the Taj Mahal, Hampi, Ajanta, Ellora and Bodh Gaya.

She said all these sites were now connected by air and India would encourage airlines from the ASEAN countries to directly operate flights without having to go via major cities.

''This would help to make India a short haul destination. With the support of the private sector, we should be able to work out attractive tour packages that cater to the needs of the ASEAN tourists,'' she added.

In this connection, she said, India Tourist Office in Singapore would organise, in April this year, the first ASEAN-India Travel Trade Exchange - 'Beyond Boundaries' - in which the travel agents and tour operators from all the member countries would discuss and finalise joint packages on different products.

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