France has now become the top tourist destination for Indian travelles with a 50 per cent increase in the number of those visiting the country over the last two years, Ambassador of France to India, Alexandre Ziegler said here today.
"France has now become the first tourist destination for Indians," he told reporters after inaugurating here the branch office of the Consulate General of France based at Puducherry.
"The total number of Indian tourists who visited France last year was 6,00,000, a sharp increase from 3,00,000 something in 2014," he said.
Stating that there has been a sharp increase of "more than 50 per cent," in the number of visa applications, mostly seeking tourist visas, he said in the first six months of this year, the growth rate in this respect was about 35 per cent.
He said the processing time for visas will be two working days.
To a question on student visas, he said,"we have set a target of 10,000 students visas (to be) issued by 2020..coming from 4,000 last year..and 5,500 this year."
Asked if Indian students choose France for any specific course the way they opt China for medicine,he said his country offered a whole lot of programmes with management schools being very popular to other ones including engineering and science.
He said "we are increasing the number of scholarships" as well.
On Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy requesting that French President Emmanuel Macron visit the union territory during his proposed visit in December, he said it has not been decided yet and the request would be communicated to his government.
Addressing the gathering on the inauguration of the branch, he said the new office will offer consular services including issuance of visas and services to French community in Chennai, which was growing steadily.
Economic facilitation and fostering people to people exchanges through academic and cultural cooperation would be among the other activities of the branch office, he noted.
The office will provide "proximity and accessibility" to the public and the inaugration was once again a "testimony of the very strong momentum that our (Indo-French) relation is experiencing," he said.
The envoy said the Consul General based in Puducherry would be available at least two days a week in Chennai.
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