Chennai, July 1(BPNS)
Tour operators in the city are flooded with calls after the announcement of the Central government allocating five lakh free visas to foreign nationals who are to travel to India on tourist and visit visas. While the tour and travel operators of the city were skeptical on the arrival of tourists to the country, the flood of calls that they receive from France, Malaysia, Singapore, UK, and the USA have flabbergasted them.
M. Murugesan, a tour operator with a leading travel agency at Royapetth in Chennai while speaking to BPNS said, “We were not very interested in the announcement as with Covid -19 second wave still on, we were not expecting tourists coming to India but we were surprised when almost all travel and tour operators in the city are flooded with calls from people of Tamil origin and citizens of France , UK, USA, Malaysia, and Singapore making frenetic calls to come to India.”
Tour operators said that most of these tourists are coming to the country on pilgrimage as several of them were not able to visit their favourite temples as most of them were shut down during the pandemic.
Tour operator Madhavan Raja Manickam while speaking to BPNS said, “I got calls from UK and US for group travel and they wanted an all South India tour, several are foreigners but some are Indian born foreign citizens. Any way these calls have increased my confidence and the reduction in GST rates for foreign travelers would increase the number of tourists touching the country.”
The tourist season commences from September and continues till February increasing business of tourist taxi operators, hotels, restaurants, motels, resorts, and also curio shops and other shops selling unique artifacts.
Tour operators also said that there were several tourists who have shown interest from Malaysia and Singapore and most of them are for pilgrimage tourism. A section of tourists from Malayasia also preferred medical tourism as Chennai is home to some very noted multi-specialty hospitals. Sources in the tour industry told IANS that there were several enquiries for Madurai Arabindo Eye hospital and Appolo Hospital, Chennai.
With back to back waves of pandemic causing panic waves, the measure of the central government to allow 5 lakh free visas would definitely boost the tourist sector.
Kalayanaraman, a tourist taxi operator in Chennai while speaking to BPNS said, “We were dull with the business for the past two years and I had almost made up my mind to quit this industry and to work as a daily wager to support my family. However, this announcement has indeed boosted the industry and the travel agencies through which I get my work have all received several calls and most of them are serious to travel to India and especially South India”.
The industry is however expecting that the state government increases its vaccination drive and creates maximum awareness among the general public on Covid-19 as foreign tourists will be much more careful while in India. Any negative report from the first batches of the visitors can give a totally different picture of the country and could reduce the footfalls.