• Monday, March 04, 2024

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Goa to lose £55m if visa rules not relaxed for UK tourists: Lawmaker

Travellers from UK are complaining that visa slots are not available due to the rule change and they struggle to get their visas processed in time.

Representational image (iStock)

By: Pramod Thomas

A lawmaker in western Indian state of Goa has warned that the tourist hotspot will face a loss of Rs 500 crore (£55m) if visa conditions to UK tourists are not relaxed.

Goa Forward Party (GFP) president and legislator Vijai Sardesai has urged the BJP government at the centre and prime minister Narendra Modi to intervene immediately to resolve the issue.

According to the new rule announced by the ministry of external affairs, British tourists have to seek visa from nine processing centres in England.

Travellers from UK are complaining that visa slots are not available due to the rule change and they struggle to get their visas processed in time.

Reports said that foreign tourists at the VFS Global offices in the UK are not getting appointments. Currently, it takes about two months to get an Indian visa.

Sardesai pointed out that Goa is facing cancellation of 7 to 8 bookings per day in small and medium hotels because of the rule change.

“I want to appeal to tourism minister Rohan Khaunte and chief minister Pramod Sawant to take up the issue with Modi to lift the visa restrictions. We can come together and meet the PM over the issue,” Sardesaid told the IANS.

According to him, around 50,000 tourists arrive in Goa from the UK every year and each tourist spends around £1,000 during their visit. He added that the state government gets £5.5m as tax from these travellers.

“Government will lose it if visa restrictions are not relaxed. Earlier 35 to 40 per cent tourists from Russia used to arrive in Goa. But now due to Russia and Ukraine war these tourists will not come in the coastal state. Hence now we need to fill this space from England,” he further said.

Minister Khaunte confirmed that the state will take up the issue of e-visa’ to the UK with the union government. The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) has also urged the government to take steps to include UK for issuance of e-visas.

Last week, the Indian High Commission in UK started a probe against unauthorised agents who illegally charged fee from British tourists to get India visa. The High Commission reiterated that it is working on streamlining processes and warned against fraudsters.

It added that individual visa applicants can apply in person at the mission’s outsourced VFS Global centres in London.

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