The demand for Indian visas has witnessed an unprecedented surge with Mihin Air`s budget flights contributing significantly towards heavy passenger volumes to Sri Lanka`s giant neighbour.
More and more Sri Lankans take wing during the July-August peak season to participate in many important religious festivals in diverse parts of India, says Vinaya Kumar, Counselor (Consular) at the Indian High Commission in Colombo.
`Last Monday alone, we issued 850 visas, the highest in a single day so far this season`, he noted. `This is a significant jump from 400-450 per day during the off season`.
`Sure, low cost Mihin Air flights coupled with Air India Express and Sahara Air carriers to Buddha Gaya have contributed substantially to the heavy India-bound passenger traffic`, he said.
Mihin Air operates daily flights to Trichy and Trivandrum at an amazingly low return fare of Rs. 14,200 and 16,800 respectively with 75 kg of luggage thrown in gratis.
`All Mihin Air flights are full`, a travel industry official said. `People are cashing in on this double bonus - competitive airfare and a bigger luggage allowance`.
Mihin Air is expected to launch services to Buddha Gaya, its third Indian city, from September 2, 2007, an official said. `The proposed return airfare is Rs. 25,200`.
There are two peak seasons per annum for religious pilgrimages to Indian cities, Vinaya Kumar explained. `The next is during November-December`.
The school vacations during August and December every year also offer an opportunity for people to travel overseas with their families, he pointed out. `They make travel plans during this time`.
He said that religious festivals at the Vellankerni Church and Tirupathi are amongst the major attractions. `There are also devotees of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba who visit Puttaparthi and Bangalore during the season`.
`We have liberalized the issuance of visas to Sri Lankans`, he assured. `It`s a one-day service`.
The visa charges remain a nominal Rs. 310/- for single entry and multiple Rs. 610/-, Vinaya Kumar said.