New step to ease Italy visa

The Visa Section of the Italian Embassy in Mumbai seems to have taken a step in the right direction. TRAVTALK speaks to a few agents in Mumbai and Delhi to find out the ground situation.

TT Bureau

Many a time, agents are forced to suggest a different European destination to a client that wants to holiday in Italy because there are issues with getting visa appointments for Italy. As a result, clients are forced to add-on another destination because they cannot do Italy exclusively. However, there seems to be some good news for Mumbai agents. Sampat Damani, Partner, Disha Travel and Head, Diplomatic Missions Relations Committee, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), says, “Italy has opened a new category under ‘If been granted a Schengen visa in the past’. The other Schengen mission should take a cue like granting additional slots to repeat travellers; it will ease their pressure. They can further consider improving on turnaround time, especially when travellers from reputed companies travel for business meetings. They can also consider issuing longer validity visas, even if it means charging a little more for the same.” However, his advice to clients is to plan early and be honest with their intent to travel. The situation in Delhi tells a different story. Anil Kalsi, Vice President, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), says, “Slot availability for tourists in Italy is limited.

One seldom sees any availability for tourist visa applications in Delhi, but business visa for Italy is available. Italy visa application in Mumbai is better placed, as they offer priority visa appointment to persons who have travelled to Europe in the last two years.”

But not all agents in Mumbai are aware of this new facility. Anshu Tejuja, Managing Director, Ashoka Dream Holidays, says she is not aware of such a thing. “Italy visas from Mumbai are very difficult. You do not get appointments for three months, and even after that the slots available are minimal. As of now, the next available slots are showing May 2024. I request them to open up the system to add more appointments and ease the system,” she says disappointedly.

Tactical approach
To tackle the visa appointment issue, a few Delhi operators are using a tactical approach, but in vain. Guldeep Singh Sahni, Managing Director, Weldon Tours & Travels, says, “We have seen that they are infrequent; there are days when the calendar doesn’t even open. When it opens, there are just a day or two, or three, that open, and then within a few minutes it gets blocked. If you want to give a choice to your customer, by the time you get back, the system gets blocked. I don’t know what kind of system they have. You look at the dates once or twice, the system gets blocked. And one has to wait for two or three days to reopen with the same login ID. Or you keep on changing the login ID. It’s a weird system. When you get the appointment, either there is too much delay, or the refusal rate is higher. And the refusal rate still, I would say, in cases which are very, very good, frequent fliers and all, is still okay. But new cases definitely are at risk. I see appointments in Mumbai also have not opened up.”

Mumbai-based Arun Iyer, Founder & MD, My Golf Tours and Secretary of TAFI (WI), agrees and says, “There is a problem. While there are improvements – about 40 per cent better than last season – we have been forewarning clients since Christmas 2023 to start planning their destination and obtain appointments for visas in advance. This has helped customers. Those planning in March for a vacation in May to Europe have to postpone to June as per appointment availability. Easy destinations are the UK, France, Switzerland and Germany who have improved in their turnaround time. However, Italy is offering visa appointments early if the passengers have visited Schengen countries in the past. If not, the appointment dates are not early.”

Manish Vohra, Founder & CEO, MEITICKETWORLD, is also reaping the benefits of the new option that Italy has opened up.

He says, “This has been a boon for us as we are now able to recommend Italy as a destination to repeat Schengen guests since appointments in this category are easily available as of now.” Perhaps, it is time for European countries to remember that the Schengen visa was created, so that it would get easier for tourists to visit their destinations.

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