Foreign tourists availing e-visas will now get pre-activated free SIM cards as they arrive in India, a move hailed by tour operators’ body IATO.
Launching the much awaited service, Union tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma said the talk time to the tune of Rs 50 will be available on the BSNL SIM card which will also have 50 MB data.
Initially, the service will be provided at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi but will be later extended to 15 other airports in the country where e-visa facility is available, he added.
“The initiative will help the tourists to immediately communicate with their relatives at home, hotels, tour operators and so on. I got this idea when I had got a similar card when I had visited Sri Lanka,” Sharma said.
The minister said the facility will provide ease to the tourists who have to spend about two hours to get their SIM cards activated after they land in India
Tourism secretary Vinod Zutshi said over 10 Lakh tourists had arrived in India on e-visa facility last year. Launched on November 27, 2014, the facility is currently available for 161 countries.
To a query about the expenditure on the initiative, Zutshi said the expenses on SIM cards will be borne out of the tourism promotion budget of the ministry which he said is “well within the budget”.
Tour operators’ body IATO hailed the initiative, saying it’s a “great gesture”.
“I think we are the first country to give free SIM cards to the tourists. It’s a great gesture and will make the arrival experience better for the travellers,” Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) senior vice president Rajeev Kohli said.
Sharma said the SIM card, with 30 days’ validity, will also help the travellers to contact the 24-hour tourist helpline number available in 12 languages, including Russian, German and Japanese.