The government has further eased e-visa norms to cover travellers seeking medical treatment or on a lookout for learning yoga. The move is likely, not only to boost inbound numbers – given India’s expertise in both the fields – but also re-affirms its commitment to put in good use the soft power of yoga, spirituality and health in taking India to the global audiences.
ETV (Electronic tourist visa) scheme, launched in 2014 to attract larger global outbound into India, in a first, has been extended to accommodate medical tourists and aspiring yoga teachers. Further, discussions have already commenced on drastically reducing the mandatory visa application period to one from, current, four months.
Government’s announcement on the yoga front, fittingly, comes days before the second International Day of Yoga. In a welcome step forward from initial stance of providing tourist visa strictly for the purpose of recreation, sightseeing, casual visit to friends or relatives, casual business visit and short duration medical treatment, now, the government has decided to provide tourist and e- tourist visa to visitors who wish to enroll for a short-term yoga training course. This move is aimed at popularizing ancient Indian art of meditation and spirituality in the international arena. Tweaking the policy for obtaining tourist visa, ‘participation in a yoga program’ has been included in the list of permissible activity.
Several yoga schools and senior teachers have hailed government’s decision. “We, now, expect a fifty percent increase in number of visitors to our organization. It is, indeed, a welcome move by the central government, especially when they have been stressing on yoga and even brought it back in the spotlight,” said Pandit Radheshyam Mishra, Founder-Director of Ujjain’s
famed Yoga life Society. Sharing the he had noticed a visible impact of e-visa on tourism numbers, he said “I found out during my visit abroad that there are a number of countries where India does not have representation. I met people in Latvia and Estonia who told me that they had to go to Finland to apply for an Indian visa. E-visa has certainly settled that.”
Highlighting the power of yoga in attracting footfalls and calling yoga the new global phenomena, he said “yoga has the soft-power to bring the world to India. Such is the interest of global of community in health and wellness. There are many countries in the world that have taken a keen sense of interest in yoga. If you couple it with easy visa facilitation, sky is the limit for tourism and inbound numbers in the country.”
While e-visa is also being extended to accommodate medical tourists, the decision is sure to lend more weight to India’s clout as an affordable, reliable and a world-class medical destination. Its success in attracting hordes of foreigners from Africa, the USA, Europe and the Middle-east has assiduously nurtured a market – currently pegged at 3 billion US dollars – which is expected to grow to a whopping 8 billion dollars by the end of this decade. Numbers are substantial; India catered to 1, 84, 298 medical tourists in 2014.
Some of the key cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru have immensely benefited by the availability of adequate hospitals and thriving air-connectivity.