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France top tourist destination for Indians: Envoy

France has become the top tourist destination for Indian travellers with a 50 per cent increase in the number of those visiting the country in the last two years, Ambassador of France to India Alexandre Ziegler said. Inaugurating a branch office of the Consulate General of France based at Puducherry, he said, “France has now become the first tourist destination for Indians. The total number of Indian tourists who visited France last year was 600,000, a sharp rise from around 300,000 in 2014.”

Asserting that there has been more than 50 per cent increase in the number of visa applications, mostly seeking tourist visas, he said in the first six months of this year, the growth in the number of applications was around 35 per cent. Ziegler said the processing time for visas will be two working days.

To a question on student visas, he said, “We have set a target of 10,000 students visas (to be) issued by 2020 from 4,000 last year and 5,500 this year.”

On Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy requesting that French President Emmanuel Macron visit the union territory during his proposed visit to the country in December, he said it has not been decided yet and the request would be communicated to his government.

Addressing the gathering at the inauguration of the branch, Ziegler said the new office will offer consular services, issuance of visas and services to French community in Chennai, which was growing steadily.

The Consul General based in Puducherry would be available at least two days a week in Chennai, the envoy said. Economic facilitation and fostering people to people exchanges through academic and cultural co-operation would be among the other activities of the branch office, he noted.