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Mauritius drops visa for Indians
- Only return ticket needed for trip to island

Calcutta, Sept. 23: A pre-Puja gift awaited those who attended the exotic Mauritian food and dance festival at The Park banquet today.

Mauritius tourism and leisure minister Anil Kumarsingh Gayan announced, in an extended goodwill gesture, 'the complete removal of visa restrictions' for tourists heading to the Indian Ocean island from next month. All that Indian travellers need is a valid return ticket.

'Coming to Mauritius simply on an impulse rather than going through a series of visa proceedings is now possible with us having removed all such hassles for Indians visiting our country. Both countries have a great relationship, what with our common origins,' the minister said.

The visa waiver is expected to double annual tourist traffic from the subcontinent to 50,000 arrivals.

Mauritius has a good thing going with Bollywood taking to the island in a big way. With facilities like free location ' which includes easy access to airports and ports, unlike in India ' and an almost immediate issuance of no-objection certificates by the Mauritius Film Development Corporation, 10 to 12 film shoots take place on the beaches and blue waters every year.

The latest in the long list of Bollywood hits made in Mauritius is Salman Khan's Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. The island is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Amitabh Bachchan on October 10.

What till now was merely a favoured honeymoon destination and film shoot location could now see other tourists streaming in. Indian travellers will be drawn by religion (the common thread of Christmas, Diwali, Durga Puja, Id, Ganesh Chaturthi') and adventure (with water sports as the top draw), Gayan said.

'The Indian summer ' our winter ' is of course the peak period as it's so cool in Mauritius and hot over here. It's like flying from a tandoor to a refrigerator,' Akhlasur Rehman, representing the hospitality industry as part of the minister's entourage, said.

During the East India Company's heyday, Calcutta was a stopover along the route to Mauritius. But most Indian tourists to the island belong to Mumbai, followed by Chennai and Delhi. Mumbai has five flights to Mauritius and Chennai and Delhi two each, but Calcutta has no direct air link with the island.

But this should be set right soon with Gayan having taken up the matter with his Bengal counterpart Dinesh Dakua at Writers' Buildings yesterday.

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