As global travel ebbs back to normal, India’s vice president and foreign ministry spokesman have spoken out about protecting the environment and normalising inbound travel to the country, respectively. “We would hope that as the COVID-19 situation continues to improve in our country, other countries would take steps to normalise travel with India,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi reportedly said.
“Become a warrior in the movement to protect the environment”
Bagchi said that initial steps have been taken locally to normalise the situation and that the government will continue to prioritise the issue. Since 2015, foreign travellers of many nationalities wishing to travel to the Republic of India by air or sea, can apply for a visa online at E-visa India. The application is also available at 28 airports and five ports and is reserved for tourism—including cruises, yoga tours, and visits to acquaintances, among other intentions—and business, medical, or conference purposes.
Meanwhile, Vice President Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu said in an official government statement: “Everyone must become a warrior in the movement to protect the environment in the light of the climate crisis the world is going through. From Panchayat to Parliament, all stakeholders must act proactively in protecting the environment.”
Importance of nature in Indian civilisation
Recalling the importance ascribed to nature in Indian civilisation, the vice president said that all should act as “trustees” of the natural environment. He noted India’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, leadership in forging the International Solar Alliance, and called for even greater global efforts towards mitigating climate change.
“Studies have revealed that spending time in nature lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and enhances emotional well-being. Being close to nature leaves us rejuvenated,” he said. He called for creating awareness from a young age of the need to live in harmony with nature. “It was also found that children who received outdoor training were more satisfied and emotionally well-balanced. Every school should make outdoor activities like gardening and trekking an integral part of the curriculum,” he emphasised.
While the timeline for travel recovery depends on several factors such as vaccination coverage, many travellers continue to be eager to get back to travelling and connecting with new people and places. In the context of COVID-19, the Government of India is following point of entry procedures for identifying international travellers, particularly at-risk travellers to India, through a multi-pronged strategy of thermal screening and testing.
Travellers required to complete form online at Air Suvidha portal
As part of pre-travel plans, all travellers to India are required to submit a self-declaration form online via the Air Suvidha portal—www.newdelhiairport.in—before the scheduled travel and upload a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR report. This test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey.
For their part, a recent study by Airbnb and YouGov finds that 36% of Indians hope to travel and explore new places with loved ones, and 43% say they would expect or plan to travel during 2021. Two-thirds (66%) are considering trips close by and a third (33%) hope to spend time travelling and working in different locations. Four in ten (40%) hope to get closer to nature, with hills and beaches key destinations of choice.
Commenting on these trends, Amanpreet Bajaj, General Manager, Airbnb India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said: “As many of us think of travelling again, stepping out the door will be about spending quality time with loved ones and creating new memories in unique destinations nearby or in nature. It will also be about exploring more flexible ways to live and work in a new world. Reflecting these preferences in India and around the world, Airbnb recently launched more than 100 upgrades that include new ways for customers to discover unique nearby destinations.