Kerala has become the gateway to India for holiday makers from 43 countries who can now get Tourist Visa on Arrival (TVoA) enabled with ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) at the Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi international airports.
Effective from November 27, the TVoA enabled with ETA will allow tourists to apply and pay the fee for the visa online, without having to travel to the Indian missions in their home countries. Applicants who are approved will receive the official travel authorization via email and only need to present a printed copy of this to the immigration authorities upon their arrival in India.
Kerala is the only state to have two airports where the service has been introduced and the Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi airports are among only nine in the country to offer this facility. Discussions are currently underway to introduce it at the Kozhikode airport as well.
The TVoA enabled with ETA is being implemented in phases and has been made available initially to citizens of 43 countries, including 12 that were previously eligible for a Tourist Visa on Arrival.
These are: Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Cook Islands, Djibouti, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kingdom of Tongo, Laos, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Niue, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Papua & New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Kiribati, Republic of Korea , Republic of Marshall Islands, Republic of Nauru, Republic of Palau, Russia, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, USA, Vietnam and Vanuatu.
A.P. Anilkumar, minister for Tourism said that the new facility will make travelling to Kerala hassle-free for citizens of many countries. Kerala tourism department will ensure that potential visitors are aware of this advantage by intensifying promotional campaigns there. "Some of our key markets such as Germany, Australia, Japan, Russia, USA and UAE are also on the list, which will be a great boost to tourism, he added.
Kerala Tourism, which targets 30 lakh tourist arrivals by 2021, has been successfully pitching the Visa on Arrival facility through promotional campaigns worldwide. It took part in JATA Tourism Expo for the second year running in 2014 and organised road shows in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Finland and Russia.
Kerala Tourism Director, P I Sheik Pareeth said convenient travel facilities coupled with the focus on infrastructure building and quality services should help the state maintain its status as one of the leading tourism destinations in the world.
Since August 2014 when the TVoA facility was first introduced at the Thiruvananthapuram airport, roughly 250 sq ft holding area has been set aside in the Immigration section and the exclusive visa desks are manned by Intelligence Bureau officials. Special enclosures have been built for photographing visitors, and displays, signages and foreign exchange counters have been set up at the facility.
Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Goa are the other airports that currently offer the TVoA enabled with ETA service.