Bangladeshi tourists to India surge by 58pc

A Monitor Report 16 Jul, 2017  |    -      +
NEW DELHI : Growth in arrival of foreign tourists to India is seeing its highest pace in more than a decade thanks to a sharp rise in visitors from Bangladesh, according to a Indian newspaper.

Arrivals from the neighbouring nation have surged 58 per cent in the first five months of this calendar year, helping the number of overall foreign visitors to clock an growth of over 16 per cent.

India received 4.21 million foreign tourists until May against 3.62 million last year, implying a growth of 16.3 per cent against an increase of 8.7 per cent registered in the first five months of 2016, government data showed. About 861,000, or one in every five, visitor that India received came from Bangladesh. Last year, India had welcomed 540,000 visitors from Bangladesh during the January-May period.

It is interesting to see that more than half of the total growth (all countries put together) has come from Bangladesh. While approximately 590,000 more visitors landed in the country in the first five months over the previous year, arrivals from Bangladesh alone expanded by 321,000.

The rise of the Bangladeshi visitors' share in the Indian travel market has been quite rapid. From a mere 0.48 million visitors in 2012, the number has now grown almost threefold to 1.37 million in 2016. Further, the number is poised to hit a new high this year. Most Bangladeshis visit India for quality medical and healthcare facilities. In addition to this, trade and commerce is also a contributor. Government data show that of the 134,344 medical visas issued by India in 2015, half went to citizens from Bangladesh. The number of medical visas increased to almost 97,000 during the first half of 2016.

Hospitals, especially those in the Eastern region, are registering a significant uptick in patients coming from Bangladesh. Kolkata-based AMRI Hospitals, which has three hospitals in the city, has seen a growth of 30-40 per cent in patients from Bangladesh. "We have seen a sharp surge in the numbers. We get 1,000-1,500 patients every month from Bangladesh. They come for all kinds of treatments. We get quite a few cases of infertility," said Rupak Barua, Group CEO, AMRI, which is promoted by Emami.

AMRI is reaching out to markets in Bangladesh. It set up two local information centres in Dhaka and Chittagong in May as a marketing initiative. Six more centres will be opened to facilitate patients coming to AMRI hospitals. As a next step, AMRI said it plans to tie up with Bangladeshi airlines. Barua said that AMRI entertains only those Bangladeshi patients who come with a medical visa. Language is not a barrier here between Bangladesh and West Bengal, he added.

A large number of visitors from Bangladesh also come to India by the bus service that connects Dhaka to Kolkata. Therefore, Haridas-pur, a check-post in West Bengal, has been ranked second among top ports of entry into India in recent months. A new bus service between Kolkata and Dhaka and a rail link between Kolkata and the western city of Khulna in Bangladesh were inaugurated earlier this year. Such moves have helped people from Bangla-desh come to India quickly.

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