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Tourism sector urges visa incentive for flagging India figures

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A coalition of tourism, business and charity organisations has called on the government to take swift measures to reverse an alarming slump in the proportion of Indian tourists visiting the UK.

The move follows a new report published by the Royal Commonwealth Society in partnership with leading aviation tourism and industry groups including the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which recommends that India is added to the UK’s latest £87 two-year visitor visa scheme.

In October 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a pilot scheme for a two-year UK-China visitor visa costing £87. At present, the same length visa costs Indian visitors £330 and the new report recommends that Indian nationals are given the same deal as their Chinese counterparts.

Advocates say the reform would help reverse the UK’s falling market share of global Indian tourists, which has halved over the last decade. The estimated cost to the UK economy is almost £500m per year and rising, as the number of Indian outbound tourists grows by 10 per cent each year.

Conservative MP for Mid Worcestershire Nigel Huddleston said; “I believe that the changes advocated in this report would help re-establish the UK as the leading destination for Indian visitors by making a clear statement that we are open for business.”

Despite the deep economic and cultural ties between the UK and India – most notably through the Indian diaspora of 1.4m in the UK – industry experts believe the UK is not doing enough to capitalise on the potential of the Indian market. Indian business visitors are particularly valuable guests and spent £201m in the UK during 2015; almost three times the average spend on business trips to the UK.

“The considerable rise in Indians travelling globally over the past decade has not been enjoyed by the UK until now,” said Kurt Janson, director of Tourism Alliance.

“The proposed change to the current visitor visa would offer an attractive incentive to Indian tourists and ensure that the UK takes full advantage of the enormous potential for growth in the Indian tourist market.”

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A coalition of tourism, business and charity organisations has called on the government to take swift measures to reverse an alarming slump in the proportion of Indian tourists visiting the UK.
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