UCAN needs your support
You are why we do what we do - report, describe, comment, review. It is to bring to your eyes just what life is like for believers across Asia that we publish UCAN.
But as you know, the effort needs to be sustained if it is to have continuing effect.
UCAN publishes some 150 stories a week in four languages across six websites. We are grateful to benefactors in Europe and the US who support us. But those countries and the Church there are under increasing financial strain and their generosity no longer covers our costs.
We need financial help from our readers to sustain our efforts. Our reporters, editors, video producers and photographers all have families and we need to support them. They do excellent jobs, but they can't do their jobs for nothing.
Will you help us to sustain UCAN? Please click here to help.
Thanks in anticipation.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
India to relax entry rules for visitors
Visas on arrival to lure back tourists and pilgrims
File photo: Shutterstock
- Swati Deb, New Delhi
- October 9, 2013
India plans to provide visas on arrival to visitors from 40 countries in a bid to increase tourism revenue. The new three-month visas will also be available at small airports that are close to religiously important sites such as Goa, Gaya and Amritsar.
Visitors from the US, UK, Italy, UAE, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Germany, France, Spain and Switzerland, will be among the 40 nationalities to benefit from the service.
Currently visas on arrival are only available to visitors from 11 countries including Japan, Finland, Singapore, Indonesia, and New Zealand.
"A decision was taken to relax the existing visa norms. Necessary executive steps will be taken soon to make visas on arrival available to these visitors," federal Planning Minister Rajiv Shukla said.
The decision was taken at a federal Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, he said.
Goa, a former Portuguese colony, is home to several Christian pilgrimage sites including the Bom Jesu Cathedral which houses the remains of Saint Francis Xavier. The cathedral attracts thousands of pilgrims from around the world each year.
Gaya district in Bihar state has sites that also attract Hindu, Buddhist and Jain pilgrims from overseas. These include the Mahabodhi Buddhist temple complex.
Amritsar in the Punjab is home to the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine in the Sikh religion.
Shukla said visas on arrival will help boost religious tourism.
"The government feels this step should be taken to help garner more foreign exchange at a time when the Indian economy has hit problems," Shukla said.
According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India the number of tourist bookings this year has dropped at least 25 percent. Reports of rape and other crimes against foreign women are thought to be a major factor in the drop.
In 2012 some 6.6 million overseas tourists visited India, helping country earn US$17.74 billion in revenue, the Federal Tourism Ministry says.
Tour operators welcomed the government move. "Visa relaxation will definitely help increase tourism revenue," said Jeeten Bahadur Singh, a tour operator in New Delhi.
"This needs to be implemented as soon as possible. Also more tourist-friendly measures should be taken to tap tourists from other South Asian countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka" which can attract thousands of religious tourists, he said.