The Centre relaxed guidelines for international travellers from Tuesday, bringing relief to the tourism sector and raising hopes that the year ahead during which India would host the G-20 summit would boost foreign visitors after three years of the pandemic-induced lull.
The ministry of health and family welfare has come up with a new notification in supersession of guidelines issued to international travellers on September 2, 2022.
Until now, international passengers had to submit self-declaration forms, in which 14 days of travel details needed to be filled up among others, on the Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled journey. A negative report of Covid-19 RT-PCR, which was conducted 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey, or details of the Covid-19 vaccination needed to be uploaded. Upon arrival, about 2 per cent of the total passengers on a flight had to undergo random testing at the airport.
The new notification for international travellers only states: “All travelers should preferably be fully vaccinated as per the approved primary schedule of vaccination against COVID-19 in their Country.”
Random post-arrival testing at airports has also been done away with.
Data with the Union ministry of tourism show that while India had received 17.91 million international tourists in 2019, the figure dropped to 6.33 million in 2020 when Covid-19 spread across the globe.
“A sense of normalcy will definitely help the industry a lot. We have had very few foreigners visiting us since 2020. However, with the G-20 summit being held in India next year, we are expecting a new momentum in foreign arrivals,” said Amit Periwal, the CEO of Clubside Tours and Travel.
The summit will take place on September 9 and 10, 2023.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla, a former foreign secretary and chief coordinator of the upcoming G20 summit, recently undertook a two-day visit to Nagaland and discussed with chief minister Neiphiu Rio opportunities to showcase the state’s famous Hornbill Festival through the lens of G20.
“Efforts to showcase India’s diversity and culture through G20 will boost tourism,” said Periwal.
During the ongoing tourist season, footfall has been generally low in Sikkim.
“Because of various reasons, right from high travel expenses to road conditions, the flow of tourists was low in Sikkim this year compared to Darjeeling. We hope ease in travel for international tourists will help us, too,” said a hotelier who has properties both in Gangtok and Darjeeling.
Bangladeshis and Nepalis are among the top 15 international arrivals in India. A large number of these nationals visit Sikkim and Darjeeling.