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Visa on arrival: India sees 421.6% jump in tourist arrivals in December

The central government's effort to boost inbound tourism by including more countries under the visa on arrival scheme has paid off.

In December alone, the country saw a 421.6% jump in tourist arrivals compared to the same period in 2013. The government issued 14,083 visas in December 2014 compared with 2,700 visas in December 2013, according to data from the ministry of tourism.

For the year 2014, India saw a 92.4% increase in tourist arrivals compared with the number in 2013. The government issued 39,046 visas under the visa on arrival scheme between January and December 2014, compared with 20,294 visas issues during 2013. India saw maximum tourist influx from the US (24.26%), followed by Russian Federation (15.06%), Republic of Korea (11.01%), Ukraine (8.16%), Australia (7.98%), New Zealand (5.08%), Japan (4.30%), Singapore (4.27%), Germany (4.05%) and the Philippines (3.10%).

In November last year, the government opened up visa on arrival for 43 countries enabled by Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). Prior to it, the regular visa on arrival scheme had been in operation for 12 countries.


India's tiger population increases by 30% in past three years; country now has 2,226 tigers

Here is a good news for wildlife conservationists and tiger lovers. The population of tigers has increased in India from 1,706 in 2011 to 2,226 in 2014.

The new tiger census, released by Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar, shows that India — which has 70% of the world tiger population — has registered an increase of 30 per cent in country's tiger population in the past three years. "While the tiger population is falling in the world, it is rising in India. It is a great news", said Javadekar.

Referring to the census exercise, he said, "Never before such an exercise has been taken in that massive scale where we have unique photographs of 80% of the India's tiger". If one look at the 2008 tiger census figure, the current increase is simply phenomenal. India's tiger population was 1,411 in 2008. Tiger census is carried out after a gap of every three years by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in the country.

According to the 2011 tiger census report, the tiger population estimated was 1,706 (i.e. ranging between a minimum of 1,571 to a maximum of 1,875). The results included figures from 17 states having tiger population.

The latest tiger census figures show that Karnataka has the highest number of tigers in the age group of 1.5 years and more. The state has 408 tigers in that age group followed by 340 in Uttarakhand, 308 in Madhya Pradesh, 229 in Tamil Nadu, 190 in Maharashtra, 167 in Assam, 136 in Kerala and 117 in Uttar Pradesh.

Airline Vistara takes wing with its maiden Delhi-Mumbai flight

Vistara, the Tata-Singapore Airlines carrier, made its maiden flight between Delhi and Mumbai on 9th January afternoon. It is the third full service carrier in the domestic airline industry. On the first day of operations, the airline had to contend with a short weather-related delay at Delhi. The return flight too did not take off on time as the secondary runway 14 was in use on Friday, which led to air traffic congestion.

Vistara is now the first domestic passenger airline to operate from Mumbai's Terminal 2, which was inaugurated in February last year. Till now, the terminal had been used only by international passengers. Vistara, which has two leased A320s as of now, will operate 148-seater Airbus A320-200 with 16 seats in business class, 36 in premium economy and 96 in economy on these routes.

The brand Vistara is a joint venture between Tata Sons Limited and Singapore Airlines Limited (SIA), with Tata holding the majority stake of 51% in the company and SIA holding the remaining 49%.

No more elephant polo matches in Rajasthan

Elephant polo finally comes to an end in Rajasthan, ironically this time not through enforcement from the government but through the stakeholders themselves. The awareness was initiated by the Times of India campaign, 'Jumbo Cause'.

There is some respite for the jumbos in Amber as tourism stakeholders have decided to issue an advisory against exhibition elephant polo matches. In a humane move that considers animal well-being more than the moolah earned through elephant polo, tour operators are now informing the foreign agents not to book any more tours promising elephant polo in Rajasthan.

In Jaipur elephant polo was played at Rambagh and Jai Mahal hotels, Dera Amber and City Palace. But now that Rambagh, Jai Mahal and Dera Amber have refused to organize it for tourists even City Palace would not organize it.

InterContinental Hotels Group to expand its presence in India

According to a report in The Hindu Business Line, the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is planning a large expansion in the country. This international group currently has 20 properties with 3,700 rooms across brands in 13 Indian cities currently, and as per the report, plans underway include expanding the portfolio to more than 100 hotels within 10 years.