To popularise yoga in countries from where foreign tourists come to India in large numbers, the government of India will be organising a special drive for 50 foreigners on the eve of the second edition of International Yoga Day.
These foreigners, comprising travel agents, tour operators, scholars and journalists, will participate at the two main venues -- in Chandigarh and New Delhi -- for the celebrations this year on June 21. Later, they will be taken to key centres in India known for spiritualism and medical tourism in two groups.
"Both the groups will then follow a tour program including visit to the wellness & spiritual centres in Haridwar, Rishikesh, Trivandrum, Cochin, Neyyar (Kerala), Pondicherry & Chennai," read a tourism ministry statement.
Recently, the government said pursuing a short-term yoga programme in India has been included in the list of eligible activities under tourist visa, or e-tourist visa.
The decision was welcomed by Indian tour operators. "The decision to give e-tourist visa to foreigners undergoing yoga courses will have a positive impact on the flow of tourists. We welcome the decision," PTI quoted IATO President Pronab Sarkar as saying earlier this month.
E-tourist visa was launched in November 2014 and is currently available to citizens of 150 countries. The government has issued over nine lakh e-tourist visas till last month.
Tourism earnings are a major source of revenues in India, especially from foreign tourist arrivals. In calendar year (CY) 2015, 80.16 lakh foreign tourists visited India, an increase of 4 percent over 76.79 lakh tourists in the previous calendar year.
Foreign exchange earnings fell 2.8 percent to $19.67 billion in CY 2015 from $20.23 billion in CY 2014.