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India reopens its borders for foreign tourists 19 months later

New Delhi, Oct 15 (EFE) .- India reopened its borders on Friday for foreign tourists arriving in the country on charter flights 19 months after the Indian government limited entry to the country to contain the spread of the pandemic, which in the Asian country it is now at one of its lowest levels.

In addition, visitors traveling in “air bubbles” will be able to do so as of November 15, a measure longed for by a tourism sector that has been hit hard by the harsh containment measures of the Indian Government, which, however, could not avoid spikes of contagion such as that of the last May, with more than 400,000 daily cases.

“The tourism sector in India, as far as incoming (air) traffic is concerned, has been totally closed for the last 20 months, there has been no work. Nothing was allowed and most of us survived thanks to some domestic reservations.” The president of the Indian Tour Operators Association (IATO), Rajiv Mehra, recognized Efe.

Faced with this situation, the president of IATO welcomes the Government’s measure, but notes that there are still several points that must be taken into account if the foreign tourism sector in India is to be promoted so that it is not just something testimonial.

Mehra, who also runs a travel agency, criticized that the tourist visa that is granted is only 30 days and a single entry, which prevents travelers from visiting neighboring Nepal or Sri Lanka; Furthermore, since they are flights that are still part of the “air bubbles”, the rates are very high.

“If regular flights begin, fares will drop (…) and tourism will begin. (Second) this 30-day visa should be extended to 60 days with multiple entry so that people can go to neighboring countries, in addition to the India, and third, visas that were issued earlier should be valid again, “he said.

The Spanish Ion Calvo, who with his partner Olga Hortigüela founded IN2LIGHT, a sustainable and responsible tourism consultancy in India, has not received tourists since March 2020, but acknowledged to Efe that the announcement of the Indian Government will not lead them to rush , since thanks to their consulting businesses in other sectors they will be able to wait a while before returning to this niche.

“We will begin to launch probes to obtain information from former travelers or people who stayed at the gates and we will see how the spirits are, but we do not plan to start working until 2022,” revealed Calvo, who affirmed that the pandemic stopped a business sector that He hadn’t stopped growing since he started with his partner six years ago.

“Now is the time for backpackers, for the tourism that we promote, I’m afraid we will have to wait,” he said.

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