Panaji: Foreign tourists to Goa could double to one million in the next four years thanks to the newly announced visa-on-arrival (VoA) facility that would be operational from Thursday midnight at the Dabolim international airport, Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar said.
The facility would help beef up the tourism numbers in Goa because visa-related hassles would now be history, Parulekar said at a press conference here.
"We are very happy today to announce that the facilities have finally been launched and extended to 43 countries effectively from today (Thursday)," he said.
"Within the next four years, we could see the arrivals doubling from 500,000 to one million," Parulekar said.
The Dabolim airport, which caters to around 3.5 million passengers annually, is one of the nine airports in India where the facility will be provided.
The list of 43 countries considered for VoA are Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Cook Islands, Djibouti, Fiji, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Laos, Luxembourg, Marshal Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue Island, Norway, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, South Korea, Russia, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, UAE, Ukraine, US, Vanuatu and Vietnam.
Goa already sees nearly half a million foreign visitors annually, of which nearly 100,000 are from Russia.
Interestingly, Britain, which sends the second biggest contingent of tourists to Goa (also around 100,000) is not a part of the list of countries.
Britain "could be added to the list later. The overall objective of the central government is to extend the list to over 100 countries", Parulekar said.
He said the facility will enable tourists from the 43 countries to apply and procure visa within 96 hours with a validity for 30 days which is extendable subject to approval from the respective embassies.
The minister also mooted the need for aggressive marketing in these 43 countries to ensure that travel agencies and tourists are made aware of the facility and to encourage foreign visitors to avail it.
Goa Tourism is confident that the launch of VoA will increase foreign tourist arrivals from 12 to 15 percent annually.