Agents facing visa challenges

Siraj Ansari, Director, Avion Holidays, claims that agents find it difficult to access appointments for visa submission after door-to-door visa services were launched in Hyderabad. This may hamper trade practices, he says.

Surbhi Sharma

Terming Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and portals a bane for tourism trade, Siraj Ansari, Founder, United Federation of Tourism Consortium and Director, Avion Holidays, shed light on the plight of travel agents. He said that earlier traditional travel agents lost their trade profits coming from airlines and hotels to OTAs and travel BPOs, and now the visa business is also going away from their hands.

Blaming new initiatives like door-to-door visa services in Hyderabad, Ansari, former President of the Tour Operators Association of Telangana, said, “In the last meeting, I openly questioned the team on why visa facilitators are directly reaching customers through door-to-door and pillar-to-pillar services. In response, they stopped allowing agents to access appointments for visa submission. We have no choice but to use their services to convince clients. This will hamper our trade practices, as the rates they charge us are the same we charge our customers. The real concern is that the visa process has become complicated. Visa service providers have stepped in to facilitate visa acquisition, but this is causing many inconveniences, not only for travel agents but also for corporates and walk-in customers.”

“Earlier, I used to do 650 to 800 visas per year on average to all the countries in categories of business, visit and tourist visas except for countries like Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan and Bangladesh. But now the situation has changed and almost 60-75 per cent agents are managing somehow with petty margins,” he said.

Urging the members of the UFTC, Ansari suggested approaching businesses directly. He said when he mentioned the issue, the consortium members strongly felt that the visa facilitators should not discourage the travel agent’s role by reaching out to the customers directly. Ansari noted that in the past, services with consulates were easy and affordable, but the advent of online systems has led to confusion and exorbitant charges.



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