India to issue free Sim cards to Tourists

Boost for Passenger Safety at Delhi Airport

You may have had the odd free thing at an airport, especially if your flight is delayed.Maybe a hot coffee or the loan of a blanket. Now, however, the Indian Tourist Authority has taken that to a new degree by issuing new arrivals with a free Sim card.

The plan copies a similar scheme in Indias smaller neighbor Sri Lanka. The Sim cards are not intended for unlimited use throughout your stay in one of the world’s biggest countries, but rather just to use to get to your immediate destination (in most cases a Hotel).The cards are only prepaid with seventy-five cents of credit (and 50MB of data), so they won’t last long, but it is a nice touch.The Sim card is also activated immediately.

Pilot Scheme to be extended

At the time of writing the Sim cards will only be issued to those arriving at Indira Gandhi Airport in New Delhi who are in possession of an e-visa.Once at the airport, you just present your visa confirmation e-mail to the desk of the India Tourism Development Agency, and you get some free welcome information including the Sim card.

As readers will already have noted the scheme only applies to Delhi Airport, but fifteen other airports are due to be added to the program.

Free Sim cards part of wider strategy

We can all acknowledge that this is a small thing, but it is often little out of the way gestures that get appreciated. Traveling of any kind can be stressful, international travel especially so, so having a Sim card to make that reassuring call home is sure to be seen as a very nice gesture. Especially since buying a Sim card in some countries can be fiendishly difficult (India is by all accounts one of these places, and it can take days to get a card activated). The Indian Ministry of Tourism is already operating a 24-hour toll-free helpline and providing help in 12 languages at New Delhi Airport. The e-visa scheme is available to visitors from 161 countries, and hence so are the Sim cards.

Tourism big business in India

The scheme is being marketed as being principally about safety and follows a national scandal last year when the government withdrew bank notes at very short notice, and panic broke out as people queued for hours to get new money. In a side effect, many tourists became stranded without valid cash (and, if in remoter areas, no access to ATM’s). A free Sim card may well have come in handy then. It should be noted that Tourism represented just under 7% of India’s GDP last year.

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