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After facing some of the longest wait times, Indian applicants for the U.S. visa finally have much reason to cheer.

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The U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai has cleared the visa backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and said that applicants can schedule appointments for immigrant visa interviews within the standard time frame, the U.S. Consulate General Mumbai said in a statement.

It further read that over 900,000 nonimmigrant visa applications are being processed at present and will soon surpass one million visas

Following the pandemic, appointment wait times for immigrant visa applicants stood at over two years but applicants can now schedule their appointment for current slots.

On track to Achieve Targets: U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti had earlier said that the wait time for first-time tourist visa interviews has been reduced by over 50%, adding that the goal for 2023 is to process at least one million visas.

Expanding Visa Operations: Garcetti also highlighted that the consulate will continue to find innovative solutions to streamline the visa process, such as reducing the need for in-person interviews, which allows consular teams around the world to assist in processing visas for the growing number of Indian travelers.

Additionally, the two new consulates in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad could help expedite the Indian visa application process, which the U.S. State Department has been considering a “top priority.”

India, New Zealand Strengthen Air Connectivity With Expanded Flight Rights

India and New Zealand have signed a memorandum of understanding to boost cooperation in civil aviation, which includes: 

  • Scheduling of new routes
  • Codeshare services
  • Traffic rights 
  • Capacity entitlement

What’s the Deal? Designated airlines of New Zealand may operate any number of services with any type of aircraft to/from six points in India — New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata.

In a reciprocative manner, India’s airlines are now granted the same privileges, enabling them to offer multiple services to and from key New Zealand cities such as Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, with additional points yet to be determined by the Indian government. 

When Was the Deal First Inked? India and New Zealand had signed the bilateral air services agreement in Auckland on May 1, 2016 to lay the groundwork for air travel between the two countries.

Greenwood Group to Invest $60 Million for Hotels in Northeast India

Guwahati-based boutique hospitality brand The Greenwood Hotels and Resorts Group said that it will invest $60.4 million to roll out hospitality projects across the Northeast over the next 10 years.

New Launches: The company has recently launched The Greenwood, Guwahati in the eastern state of Assam — featuring 48 luxury rooms — at an investment of $12 million.

“Despite being a gateway to Northeast India and a major trade center, Guwahati lacks sufficient international level hospitality options for business and trade requirements. We are trying to address this need gap,” said Himanshu Kalita, managing director  of The Greenwood Group.

Current Operations: The group currently manages two properties — The Greenwood, Guwahati and The Greenwood, Tezpur.

Foreign Tourist Arrivals Jumped 106% in January-June Period

Nearly 4.38 million foreign tourists arrived in India from January to June this year, which is 106% higher than a year earlier. 

Foreign Exchange Earnings: Earnings from tourism more than doubled from $8 billion in 2021 to $16.4 billion in 2022, according to the government’s provisional estimates.

Inbound Travel Trends: Travel tech firm RateGain Travel Technologies’ India Inbound Travel Trends report noted that families and couples accounted for a majority share of inbound bookings – before the pandemic; solo travelers accounted for roughly a third of hotel bookings by inbound travelers.

Government Initiatives: Tourism Secretary Arvind Singh had earlier highlighted India’s plans to open up to 50 new tourism destinations, promote green tourism, launch a publicity campaign in overseas markets and operationalize 59 new air routes during its presidency of the G20 this year. 

Fortune Hotels Signs a Jungle Resort in Jim Corbett 

Indian hospitality company ITC Hotel Group’s Fortune Hotels has signed Fortune Jungle Resort & Spa in Jim Corbett in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand. 

Opening: The resort is estimated to open over the next few months.

Location: The safari-styled resort is located near Ramnagar.

New Openings: The company recently launched Fortune Park Hoshiarpur in the north Indian state of Punjab, featuring 57 rooms.

Expansion Plans: The company plans to add 15 new properties with 1,500 rooms in the next two-and-a-half years to its portfolio, Samir said in an interview earlier this year.

‘Our new property in Jim Corbett offers a tremendous location advantage as it appeals to nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers alike,” said Samir MC, managing director of Fortune Hotels.

Lords Hotels Opens Lords Inn at Kankidham in West Bengal

Mid-market Indian hospitality chain Lords Hotels and Resorts has launched Kankidham Lords Inn at the religious site of Kanki in the eastern state of West Bengal.

Number of Rooms: Kankidham Lords Inn offers 46 rooms.

New and Upcoming Launches: The company opened two properties in hill station Gangtok in the eastern state of Sikkim — New Orchid Lords Inn and Denzong Shangrila Lords Inn.  

Lords is also set to open doors of the 36-room Riviera Lords Resort in Siliguri in West Bengal in October this year. 

Current Operations: In total, the brand now operates over 40 hotels across India with a spread of four sub-brands — Lords Plaza, Lords Inn, Lords Eco Inn and Lords Resorts.


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Tags: assam, foreign exchange, india, itc hotels, new zealand, skift india report, u.s. visa, west bengal

Photo credit: India aims to process at least one million visas this year. Henry Thong / Unsplash

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