NEW DELHI, INDIA--(Marketwire - Feb. 27, 2013) - Today, the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism), and the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, announced that 2012 was a record year for Indian travellers to Canada. The Minister of State hailed this milestone as a demonstration of the increasingly close relationship between the two countries.

"Indian travellers are among our top ten international travellers to visit Canada," said Minister of State Bernier. "Our government is working with industry to capitalize on this growth, to welcome even more Indian travellers and to create jobs and growth in Canada, while strengthening our relationship with our Indian visitors."

"Attracting an increasing number of visitors to Canada, including the best and brightest young minds, is part of our plan to grow the economy and create jobs," said Minister Kenney. "We strive to issue visas and permits as quickly as possible to facilitate travel for visitors and students and to benefit from the economic spinoff they bring to Canada."

Minister of State Bernier highlighted the fact that in 2012, Canada issued more than 130,000 visas and more than 13,000 study permits to Indian citizens. This represents a 58-percent increase in visas and a 530-percent increase in student permits since 2004, which reaffirms the fact that Canada continues to be a destination of choice for Indian travellers and students.

Recent actions taken by the Harper Government have made it easier for Indians to visit Canada. In November 2012, Prime Minister Harper announced plans to open a new consulate in Bangalore.

The Harper Government has also made significant improvements to the visa application process. The period for which multiple-entry visas are valid was extended from 5 years to 10 years, which allows visitors to enter and exit Canada for up to 6 months at a time over 10 years. Additionally, parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents are now eligible to apply for the new Super Visa, which is valid for up to 10 years and allows parents and grandparents to remain in Canada for up to 24 months at a time. These measures are complemented by the fact that Indian travellers to Canada receive faster visa approvals than travellers from any other country in the world.

Additionally, significant improvements to the Canada-India bilateral air transport agreement were made in June 2011 and July 2012, specifically in terms of the number of flights permitted, access to additional cities and greater pricing flexibility for airlines.

"The record number of visas issued last year is a great signal to Indian travellers that Canada is open for business," said David Goldstein, President and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. "We support the efforts of the government in facilitating the visa process for these potential visitors and in helping grow our share of this vital emerging tourism market."

The Indian middle class represents one of the fastest-growing outbound travel markets in the world. The Harper Government, through Canada's Federal Tourism Strategy, is committed to making Canada an even more attractive destination for Indian travellers. Today's record number of visas issued will be tomorrow's benchmark, and it is expected that visits to Canada will continue to increase in the years to come.

Photos of the Minister of State's tourism mission to New Delhi and Jaipur will be available in the Photo Gallery on the Industry Canada website.

Contact Information:

Scott French
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Maxime Bernier
Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Media Relations
Industry Canada