Tourism is expected to get a boost in the upcoming budget with special allocation to get the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme rolling. With special thrust placed on the “untapped potential” of tourism first by PM Narendra Modi and now by President Pranab Mukherjee ETA is on the top priority in the 100-day agenda of the tourism ministry but not without its challenges. The latest hurdle that ETA is facing is shortage of trained manpower with the home ministry to implement the project. According to senior officials around 600 employees are required to process online visa applications.
"Unless we have the backend in place the scheme cannot be officially notified to travellers. The details of implementation have to be worked out between various ministries," the senior official said.
Tourism ministry which has taken it upon itself to get the discussion on ETA going and will meet the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh the home minister later this month to expedite this matter, tourism minister Shripad Yesso Naik said. "We need to find out the financial requirements so that the budget allocation can be made accordingly for staff, machinery etc," Naik said.
While most of the requirements are to be met by the home ministry, Naik said that tourism ministry is likely to shell out some funds for the ETA from its own budget. The industry is expecting a spurt of 25% in the total foreign tourist arrivals in the short term, if the process is implemented efficiently. In the next three to five years, visa of arrival and the e-visa facility are going to set the tourism sector towards doubling the FTA number to 12-13 million.
Industry also feels that the next step should be to reduce the visa fees to $20 and also work towards improving the air connectivity and opening up the Indian skies so more tourists can make use of the visa on arrival.
A study by World Travel Trade Council and United Nations World Tourism Organisation has found that improvement in visa services can result up to 6 million more international visitors, create 1.8 million jobs over three years and $8 million more spend.
The decision to allow ETA to travellers was taken in February this year during the UPA II government.
Under the scheme tourists will just have to a fill a form and pay the prescribed fee, after which they will be issued electronic travel authorisation within three days. On arrival in India, a simple biometric identification will be done at the airport. To extend stay beyond 30 days, the tourist will have to get another visa from the embassy.