Visa concerns on, but agents hopeful

Travel agents, getting sleepless nights due to visa delays, urge goverments to hasten visa processes and remove ambiguity over the issue through clear communication. In the current scenario, clients are forced to change their destination to the ones giving quick or on-arrival visas, they say. Are the Missions listening?

Hazel Jain

When countries started announcing opening of borders one by one, the travel trade rejoiced, but little did they expect that a visa jam could force their clients to change their holiday destination.

Ajay Prakash, President, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), feels that it’s not just the traveller and the travel trade suffering due to the visa delays, but destinations are also facing problems. “If you have 11 million people travelling into the country, there are three times of that travelling out. And a number of our members are serious outbound players. But their businesses have been hampered by the current visa challenges for almost every country. Therefore, it is easier to look at an Asian destination. We have written to all the consulates and have even got replies from some embassies saying they are working out this issue, as there is huge demand from Indian travellers,” he said. “It is in everyone’s interest to get this (visa issue) back on track. The easier countries make the visas and quicker they do it, they will have the first-mover advantage,” he added.

Another veteran from the industry, Hutokshi Marker, CEO, Trail Blazer Tours India, feels that some countries that were easy to get visas for have become difficult now and vice versa. “The bottom line is that visas have become a big challenge for us. Having said that, it is also a revenue-earning facility for us because while clients do their bookings online, they can’t do the same for visas. It must be done via the travel agent. And that is where we have tried to take advantage of the situation because we need to earn somewhere. The biggest one that is giving us sleepless nights is the Canadian visas. People who have submitted their biometrics in October-November are still awaiting their visas. On the other hand, those who have submitted in April have got their visas. So, we as travel agents feel incompetent because we are unable to give our clients a clear answer,” she says.

Just a matter of time
While this season has picked up for Anshu Tejuja, Managing Director, Ashoka Dream Holidays, the flip side is the visa delays, especially the European and UK visas. “It has been very difficult to get appointments. Even getting the appointments once the visa application is lodged is taking a long time. Many of my clients have been affected by this and have had to change their travel plans. I had a client who had applied for a UK visa on April 13 and till July first week the client had not got the passport. The client finally had to go to Thailand,” she says.

Tina Bathija, Director, Bathija Travel, feels its just a matter of time before things get better. “In fact, just recently, the French, German and the Malta consulates announced they have started opening appointments slots. Even the Spanish consulate is giving visa appointments openly by July end-August first week. In a fortnight from now we will all be a little more relaxed,”she says.

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