The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, is deliberating a plan to start inbound travel for international travellers in close coordination with industry stakeholders. Discussions between the ministry and top industry leaders were held recently, where officials got a feedback from the industry stakeholders on the government's proposals to restart inbound travel. The Ministry of Tourism got an overwhelming response from the stakeholders on its proposal to reopen inbound travel.
A set of guidelines is also being prepared for the restoration of tourist visas in context of COVID-19, according to a source.
A document describing the standard operating procedures for international tourists visiting India on a fixed itinerary involving pre-booked hotels and domestic flights is being prepared by the government of India.
According to the suggested guidelines, apart from the present SOP, international tourists arriving in India would also need to follow standard operating procedures and other advisories issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Civil Aviation from time to time and made available on their respective websites.
According to the proposed guidelines for planning a visit to India, international tourists would need to identify a recognised tour operator and arrange for the fixed itinerary with the tour operator for the period they plan to travel. All tourists would either have to present a vaccination completion certificate or a COVID-19 negative report at least 72 hours before the scheduled travel or physically after arrival at the respective airports where such facility is available to get exemption from institutional quarantine. The proposed guidelines also advise tourists to stay informed through their tour operator or from the Ministry of Health&rsquos website about the current COVID status in India and the existing operating procedures/advisories available on the website of the Ministry.
The document also proposes that tourists would have to submit a self-declaration form on the online portal (www.newdelhiairport.in) before the scheduled travel or physically after arrival at the respective health counters. They may submit the vaccination completion certificate for getting exemption from institutional quarantine or else they shall get a negative RT-PCR test report for COVID-19, 72 hours prior to travel. The results will have to be uploaded on the online portal (www.newdelhiairport.in) or presented to the Airport Health Officer on arrival. They may also seek exemption from institutional quarantine by getting themselves tested at the airports where such provisions exist. The proposed guidelines also mention that tourists shall be cognizant of the fact that failure to produce vaccination certificate/negative RT-PCR test report may entail following institutional quarantine. Tourists will also be advised to monitor their health and avoid travel, if they have any symptoms of COVID prior to departure.
Under the proposed guidelines for boarding and during travel, it has been stated that all passengers will be advised to download the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile phones. It adds that while on board the flight, required precautions such as wearing of masks, environmental hygiene, hand hygiene, etc will have to be observed by all passengers.
As far as the proposed guidelines on arrival are concerned, thermal screening would be carried out in respect of all the passengers by the health officials present at the airport. Tourists detected to have symptoms will have to be isolated, clinically assessed and tested for COVID. If they test positive, they shall be kept in an isolation facility and managed as per the existing treatment protocol. Those tourists who will have negative RT-PCR test reports and not detected to be having fever by thermal screening will be allowed to proceed to their hotels and take domestic connection flights. It further says that tourists will have to choose a tour operator company, which must have the list of the national- and state-level surveillance officers and the respective call centre numbers, so as to inform State/National Call Centre, in case any of the tour group members develops symptoms at any time during the trip. Tourists will also have to submit their itinerary indicating the places to be visited, the place they&rsquoll be staying at and the respective contact numbers to the concerned health officials at the airport.
According to the proposed guidelines, while in India, tourists will need to observe physical distancing of at least 6 feet and use face masks at all times. They will also have to practice frequent hand washing with a soap or sanitiser. They will be advised to self-monitor their health and report any illness at the earliest to state and district helplines. If any tourist exhibits COVID-19 symptoms, he or she will have to immediately inform the state or district helpline who will contact the nearest medical facility. They will also have to self-isolate from other group members in a room or area and use face mask till the time they are examined by a doctor.
The document also mentions guidelines for staying at hotels, under which they have been advised to adopt contact-less processes like QR code, online forms and digital payments. The proposed guidelines advise guests who are at higher risk, i.e., those who are older, pregnant or those who have underlying medical conditions to take extra precautions. They will also be advised to prefer in-room dining.