New Delhi, Dec 30: Relaxation in visa regime with introduction of visa-on-arrival enabling electronic travel authorisation (ETA) for 43 countries was a high point for the Tourism Ministry in 2014.
Besides the ETA, the ministry launched welcome cards for foreign visitors and operationalised a long-awaited tourist helpline. It also witnessed a change at the helm with Mahesh Sharma replacing Sripad Naik as Tourism Minister.
With the introduction of ETA for 43 countries including the US, Israel, Germany and Russia, nearly 16,000 visas were processed since its launch on November 27.
The ministry aims to extend this facility to almost 150 countries in phases. During January-November, a total of 6.8 lakh visitors came -- the highest till November in any year during the last decade and an increase of 7.1 per cent over 2014.
The foreign exchange earnings from tourism in this period crossed the Rs 1 lakh crore mark with a growth of 12.1 per cent over the earnings of the same period last year.
In order to ensure security to tourists particularly foreigners, Sharma announced an end-to-end service for global visitors against the backdrop of tout menace rampant in tourist places.
Launching of welcome cards and helpline are in this direction, Sharma has said. Welcome cards, containing all important emergency numbers including helpline, would be given to all foreign tourists at their arrivals at international airports.