India pushes for visa-free travel to promote tourism

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During an annual tourism conference, Indian Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai urged other countries to make their visa regulations more tourist-friendly.

The three day annual conference of tourism ministers was held in Paris this past week. The UN World Tourism Organization, who hosts the meeting each year, invites tourism ministers from each of the G-20 countries to confer on tourism strategies and economic issues.

Sahai said that easier visa rules were important for tourism and job growth. He spoke strongly against strict visa regulations enforced by some countries which act as a deterrent to the growth of tourism.

"Nations should join hands to work towards barrier-free or least-barrier travel to promote tourism globally," he said.

India has forecasted that there will be significant growth in the tourism industry in the next five years which result in 25 million additional jobs by 2017.

"Tourism can be part of the solution to the economic difficulties facing the world. Amid increased economic uncertainty, unacceptably high unemployment rates and the challenges of fiscal consolidation and increased taxation in many economies, it is time for us to recall the role tourism can have in increasing exports, driving economic growth and creating jobs," said UN World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Taleb Rifai.

Anger has risen from India since several travel advisories have been issued regarding travelling to India and advising of the threats of terrorist attacks during the festival season.

Specifically, the US embassy in New Delhi last week released a statement warning "of the continued possibility of terrorist attacks throughout India".

Several similar travel advisories were released from other countries in the past week, including Australia, Canada, the UK, and New Zealand.

New Delhi states that these advisories do not reflect the reality of the situation and have an adverse affect on tourism to the country.

"I have taken it up with the external affairs ministry and asked it to persuade these countries to withdraw the travel advisories immediately," Sahai told the Times of India.

Currently if you are visiting India you need a tourist visa, unless you are a citizen of Nepal or Bhutan.