More than 50 people from the fields of politics and business have urged the British government to offer its new £87 two-year visitor visas to Indians.
A letter drafted by the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) of the UK, which was published in ‘The Daily Telegraph’ on 22 September, saw the signatories asking the pilot visa scheme that was being offered to China be extended to Indians too.
The Press Trust of India quotes the letter as saying that although the Indian tourist market was growing at a rate 10 percent each year and with its middle class growing exponentially, the number of outbound travellers from India to the UK had reduced by 50 percent in the last decade.
Its signatories, who include among others Lord Karan Bilimoria, Cobra Beer chairman, Virendra Sharma, Labour MP, chair of the Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Group, Chandrajit Banerjee, the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) Director-General, etc., said that the UK would be welcoming more than 800,000 Indian visitors per year if the country maintains its share and it would contribute about £500 million to the British economy and create employment for 8,000 people.
Banerjee was of the view that the strong relationship shared between the UK and India presently needs to be demonstrated also through a more powerful visa regime. This suggestion of a two-year British visa for Indian citizens would give a major fillip to tourism, he said. It also comes at a suitable time with 2017 being recognized as the UK-India Year of Culture.
Earlier in July, the RCS in collaboration with top industry, aviation and tourism groups released a report making a strong case for a change in visa rules. Tim Hewish, the author of report and Director of Policy and Research at the RCS, said that their letter shows how much support there was for the reform of the UK-India visitor visa scheme from people drawn from various fields.
He said that they exhorted the British government to take into consideration views of these leaders of business, politics, tourism and aviation and to discuss this proposal forcefully with the government of India immediately. France beat the UK to become the most visited European country by Indian nationals, as it attracted 500, 0000 tourists from Britain’s former colony last year.
Underscored in this letter was the fact that visa reform would improve business relations and make the UK attractive for leisure tourists from India.
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