Visa-on-arrival facility in major airports of Kerala (India)

Introduction of tourist visa-on-arrival facility at Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi airports marks a new chapter for tourism in the state as more foreigners were now likely to visit Kerala, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said here Wednesday.

The comments from Chandy came after he had reviewed arrangements at the special visa counter at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, which became operational on Aug. 15.

He was accompanied by state Tourism Minister AP Anil Kumar, Health Minister VS Sivakumar, and senior officials.

Speaking to reporters, Chandy said plans for the next phase of expansion of the city airport were progressing well.

About 250sq.ft for a holding area had been set aside in the immigration section and exclusive visa desks have been set up manned by Intelligence Bureau officials.

Special enclosures for photographing visitors and foreign exchange counters have been set up at the facility.

The Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi airports are among eight in India to offer the tourist visa on arrival. It was rolled out in the first phase in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

Two other airports that got the facility in the second phase are Bangalore and Hyderabad. Kerala is the only state to have two airports offering the service.

The facility is currently available to citizens of 11 countries, namely, Japan, Singapore, Finland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Indonesia.

These countries are markets where Kerala Tourism sees vast potential and is beginning to make significant inroads.

For instance, tourist arrivals from Japan rose by around 56 per cent in five years to 11,440 in 2012. Arrivals from Finland more than doubled over the period to 5,160 last year.

Tourist arrivals from New Zealand, Singapore and the Philippines have also risen by between 75 per cent and 90 per cent since 2008.

Anil Kumar said that the special scheme, although limited to 11 countries at present, had opened up new avenues for Kerala Tourism.

"The department of tourism will take the campaign to these countries... We will take part in travel fairs and take our roadshows there to tell people how convenient it is to visit Kerala," Kumar said.

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