Boosted by visa-free entry into some of the top holiday destinations, a large numbers of tourists from Kolkata are heading to south-east Asian countries like Malaysia and Thailand alongside Sri Lanka, during the coming year-end holiday window as well as during off season, say travel agents in the city.
Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Sunday announced a 30-day visa-free entry into the country for Indian visitors from December 1. The development triggered considerable excitement in the city’s travel trade community that has already started receiving queries and bookings from many travellers.
Similar has been the response from travellers flying to Thailand and Sri Lanka – the two nations that have allowed visa-free entry for Indian visitors. While Indians visiting Thailand till May 10, 2024 will not require any visa, Indians travelling to Sri Lanka can avail the same facility till the end of March next year.
In Kolkata, members of the travel trade community said the visa exemption would give a big boost to travel from the city. At present, there are two airlines that fly to Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur from Kolkata, Air Asia and Batik Airways.
Anil Punjabi, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) national committee member representing east India, said that apart from saving time and money, it would make travel to Malaysia hassle-free. “To apply for e-visa, there was a need to furnish hotel confirmation vouchers and air tickets. They were also very fussy about visa photographs. There have been instances where in a family of four, three have got visas and one hasn’t, leading to the cancellation of the trip for all,” he said. While the visa cost was Rs 2,600 per person, it would take three to four working days to process the visas.
Thailand too has been a top international destination for Kolkatans and the visa exemption has been attracting even more tourists from the city, said tour operators.“Post Covid multiple countries are relying majorly on tourism and that too tourists from India and other Asian countries to boost their revenue. The temporary visa waiver is also a scheme to attract more Indian tourists who may make last-minute plans to visit these nations. Thailand and Sri Lanka have already been gaining a number of tourists from Kolkata since they made the waiver. Malaysia too has started getting more queries and Vietnam too is likely to follow the same route by this weekend,” said Manav Soni, chairman (east), Travel Agents Association of India.