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Govt mulls free travel, stay for third-time visitors to India

by Himanshi Dhawan ,  The Times of India | 2008-12-15

If there is no such thing as a free lunch, the government is set to prove it wrong. Faced with a falling graph of foreign tourist arrivals for the first time since 2002, the government has decided to offer hospitality on the house to foreign tourists who come to India for the third time.

The global meltdown combined with the Mumbai attacks have spelt disaster for the tourism industry with foreign tourist arrivals dropping by 2.1% and foreign exchange earnings down by 12.5%.

Reeling from these statistics, the tourism ministry is considering several sops for the hospitality and travel industry. Amongst these include offering free air travel and accomodation to foreign tourists who visit India for the third time. "This move, if approved, will mean encouraging genuine Indophiles and is in line with our effort to encourage repeat travellers," an official said.

The ministry is also considering footing the bill for travel and accommodation of tour operators promoting domestic travel and medical tourism. "With a drop in foreign travellors, we need to focus our energies on the domestic market. We would like to tie up with state governments to provide travel and promotion expenses incurred by tour operators," a tourism ministry official said. Medical tourism, a big ticket earner for India that draws people from West Asia and UK, is another area that the ministry is looking at.

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