India is in the throes of a travel boom, which is resounding across countries and continents. Travel and Tourism, which was at its lowest ebb during the eighties and nineties, has looked up this decade and has never been as promising as it is now. Has this kind of a situation been free of any speculation? Not at all! It has sparked many a discussion and debate about offering visas to tourists on arrival. What are the risks and advantages of issuing such visas?
Talks and discussions of issuing tourists visas on arrival have been going on from the BJP government days. Nothing concrete has come up though. However, as many as 16 countries that will be given these visas upon their arrival have been drawn from Europe and Asia. The mandatory document will only be their passport, while visas will be stamped at special counters in airports. But this won’t be extended to countries like the USA, UK and Canada, which contribute the maximum traffic into the country, and African countries for security reasons.
The advantages of offering such visas are many. Since tourists like to travel with least documentation, if such visas are issued on arrival, then the tourist rate in the country will go up tremendously. This would mean generating employment for many and overall development of the country. It would also mean that corporates and businesses can ask people to come down for meetings rather than travel all the way to the customer’s country, which would save them time, effort and money. This approach will also help open trade with friendly countries and help talks on bilateral issues. Our hospitality sectors and service industries, too, will benefit from such an arrangement. It will definitely raise standards in these sectors. Finally, our transport sectors like the airline, train and road transport will benefit immensely from people coming to India.
On the flip side it would mean allowing unknown people into the country as there will be no time to look into their credentials. And with terrorism so rampant, it could only encourage terrorist activities in the country. It’s, therefore, better to be wary and cautious while issuing visas on arrival.
But it’s the pros that win
The advantages are many compared to the risks, and countries like China, Srilanka and some South-East Asian countries have already implemented the scheme of issuing visas on arrival. We can have stringent checks like adopting satellite technology to scan identities of foreigners who visit the country within seconds. Proper software to screen identities can also be put into use. A blacklist of people can be issued to the immigration department and intelligence agencies to carry out random checks on people. It will definitely benefit the country in the long run if the policy of issuing arrival visas is put in place.
What is your opinion about this issue? What kind of policies do you think are in place in countries like Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and others that issue visas on arrival? Are we capable of handling the risks that come from this?