A STEEP hike in e-visa fees for foreign nationals visiting India — introduced by the Ministry of Home Affairs in the last week of July — has left the Ministry of Tourism concerned, with Union Tourism Minister KJ Alphons recently urging Home Minister Rajnath Singh to reconsider the hike.
E-visa fees were hiked up to 60 per cent in three categories — tourist, business and medical. While charges have been increased from $75 to $100 for the US and UK, the fees for others have been hiked from $50 to $80.
Officials claim that the hike could hit the Tourism Ministry’s plan to double foreign tourist arrivals in the next three years.
“I have requested the Home Minister to reconsider increasing the e-visa rates from $50 to $80, and he has assured me that he will look into our concern,” Alphons told The Indian Express.
In 2017, India received 10.18 million foreign tourists, including 1.7 million who used the e-visa facility, according to a statement released by the Tourism Ministry. It was for the first time that foreign tourist arrivals crossed the 10-million mark, pushing the earnings from tourism to over $27 billion, it said. The Ministry is now looking to double the figure with niche projects, such as cruise tourism, adventure tourism and yoga tourism.
An official in the Tourism Ministry claimed that the travel industry has sent representations that they were “not consulted before the announcement”.
“The industry feels the amount collected from the increased fee would be much less than the foreign exchange earned from higher tourist arrivals. Most countries are now easing visa rules and reducing charges for visitors to increase tourism earnings,” the official said.
The high GST rates at hotels in India (28 per cent if the room tariff is above Rs 7,500; 18 per cent for tariffs between Rs 2,500-7,500) is another area of concern, Alphons said.
Recently, there has been a move to levy GST on actual transaction rate rather than the rack rate, but the minister said that may not be enough.
“While this will considerably reduce the tax burden on tourists, the overall GST rate on hotels should be brought down as it is giving us a reputation of being a high-tax country,” he said.
Alphons added that they have written to the Finance Ministry to bring hotel taxation in India at par with other South East Asian countries, which is below 10 per cent, and also give five-year GST break to the nascent cruise tourism industry in the country.
India introduced e-visa facilities in November 2014 to citizens of 43 countries, which has now been extended to 165 countries. The facility is available at 25 airports and five seaports.
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