NEW DELHI – In a major boost for Commonwealth Games 2010, Indian government has introduced for the first time `visa on arrival’ scheme for tourists from five countries from early next year.

Tourists from Singapore, Finland, New Zealand, Luxembourg and Japan will be given visa on arrival facility on a pilot basis for a period of one year, Sujit Banerjee, tourism secretary, said. The scheme will be applicable in airports as well as ports across the country.

The decision was taken after tourism ministry had sought introduction of the scheme for tourists coming from these countries which are potential source markets for India. Keeping in view present-day threat perception, the ministry has suggested that citizens from nine countries including Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Finland, Netherlands, Laos, Japan, Cambodia and South Africa be allowed to avail this facility.

“We will pursue extending the VoA facility to the remaining four countries as well,” Banerjee said.

Visa on arrival facility is offered by several southeast Asian countries and proves popular with foreign tourists looking for a short break. Germany and Japan are among the top 10 source countries for India while Brazil and Netherlands have shown encouraging growth over the last year.

The modalities of implementation of the scheme are being worked out with all the stakeholders and will be notified very shortly, Banerjee said. The visa on arrival scheme is expected to provide a quantum jump in foreign tourist arrivals to India from these countries.

“We hope that visa on arrival facility will give a fillip to foreign tourist arrivals. We have kept security concerns on mind before restricting the facility to these five countries,” a ministry source said.

Incidentally, India has already introduced long-term multiple entry visa for 18 countries including France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Vietnam in 2006.

Due to security reasons, countries like the US, UK and Pakistan are out of the list of nine countries that will be accorded the facility, officials said. But this could change once airlines offer advance passenger information.