A new report released by The Royal Commonwealth Society in collaboration with various aviation tourism and industry groups has called for leniency in issuing visas for Indians in a bid to improve UK tourism. According to a press release issued on 5 July, there has been a drop in the number of global Indian tourists because of strict visa policies and high fees.
According to the report that was released in the British Parliament complex, the UK's market share of global Indian tourists has plummeted by half over the last decade, with many tourists opting instead to travel to France. This has reportedly led to losses of close to £500m ($644m, €583m) per year and over 8,000 jobs.
"We hope that the government will consider the very clear benefits of our recommendation, enhancing the already close affinity between two great Commonwealth nations," said Tim Hewish, director of policy and research at the Royal Commonwealth Society and author of the report.
The various groups that contributed to the report recommended that India be added to the UK's £87 two-year visitor visa scheme, which Prime Minister David Cameron announced in 2015 for China visitors.
At present Indian visitors continue to pay a hefty £330 for a two-year visa, or £87 for six-months.
"This policy suggestion for a two-year UK visa for Indian nationals could provide a big boost to tourism, and comes at a very opportune time as 2017 is declared the UK-India Year of Culture," Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said. "To optimise exchanges of people, business and ideas, it is important that both the UK and Indian governments discuss this promising proposal openly and collaboratively consider delivering it. The strength of the UK-India relationship today must also reflect in a stronger visa regime."
The report also pointed out that the 400,000-plus Indians who visited the UK in 2015 spent almost twice the amount as the average visitor to the UK while Indian business visitors spend almost three times the amount spent by the average business visitor. While the study does indicate that the capacity of Indian tourists to spend in the UK is higher than the average traveller, China still contributes the most to the UK's travel sector.
"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," said Nigel Huddleston, the Member of Parliament for Mid Worcestershire.