Cheaper Visas Needed to Attract More Indian Tourists to UK, Says Think Tank

France attracted 185,000 more Indian business visitors and tourists in 2016, revealed a research conducted by the Royal Commonwealth Society.


France continues to be a more popular destination for Indian visitors than the United Kingdom, a research conducted by a UK-based think tank, the Royal Commonwealth Society, showed.  France attracted 185,000 more Indian business visitors and tourists in 2016 than Britain.

According to the RCS, a UK-India bilateral visa agreement that would reduce the cost of visas would be an ideal initial step in making the country a more attractive destination for Indian visitors. The agreement would be similar to the one recently put in place with China.

The number of visits by Indian nationals to the United Kingdom fell by 1.73 per cent in 2016 and grew by 5.3 per cent in the neighboring France, portraying the widening gap.

“Given the strong historic ties between the United Kingdom and India in areas such as trade, culture and business, the fact that France continues to attract more Indian visitors than the UK is not only hugely surprising, but also enormously concerning. It’s clear that more needs to be done to build stronger links between such important Commonwealth partners,” Michael Lake, the director of the Royal Commonwealth Society, said in a statement.

The RCS launched a factsheet —”Britain and India-building a new visa partnership” — in parliament on March 7, which was supported by Airlines UK, Airport Operators Association, Confederation of Indian Industry, Edwardian Hotels, Tourism Alliance and UKinbound. The factsheet was presented to MPs as part of its campaign launched in 2016 for a new UK-India bilateral visa agreement, which would substantially reduce the cost of tourist visas.

“The Royal Commonwealth Society is seeking to facilitate the deepening of the UK-India relationship, as well as to expose the benefits this could bring. In July 2016, we launched the report, A Passage from India, which highlighted the wealth of opportunities for Britain and India in making some simple changes to visa policy,” RCS said in a statement.

It added that in the run up to the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, RCS will organize a series of parliamentary and public activities to push for the UK and India to come together for an agreement on easier visa access.

In order to enhance mobility, the organization is asking for the current China visa pilot scheme to be extended to Indian nationals, reducing the cost and trouble of obtaining multiple-entry visas for frequent travelers. “This would help boost tourist numbers, encourage business visitors, who outspend their Chinese counterparts, and further strengthen familial ties between Britain and India,” the statement said.

According to the research, the new UK-India visa agreement being proposed would reduce the cost of a two-year visa from £388 to just £89 and allow travelers to make repeat visits within two years. “This would mirror the reduced cost two-year multiple entry visa that was launched in January 2016 for visitors travelling both ways between the UK and China,” the statement said.

Labour party MP Virendra Sharma, who is backing the campaign, said that a new UK-India bilateral visa agreement will enhance trade and tourism. It will also “strengthen important business and cultural ties, enabling both the UK and India to capitalize on future global opportunities,” he was quoted as saying in the statement.

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