‘Travel demand promising’

Prabuddha Sen, Chief Operating Officer – South Asia at VFS Global, highlights the steps taken to improve customer experience, the future of traditional visa processing, and the collaboration with travel trade partners.

Janice Alyosius

The lifting of border restrictions and revival of international air travel have unleashed the pent-up demand of COVID-19 years. “Travel demand in 2022 was significantly different from the travel demand before the pandemic with no defined peak season. We noticed that the peak season extended up to the conventional lean period of September-October and the momentum continues to remain strong,” says Prabuddha Sen, Chief Operating Officer – South Asia, VFS Global.

In 2022, visa applications from India across all categories reached nearly 80 per cent of the pre-pandemic levels, and the volume of visa applications more than doubled compared to 2021. “In 2023, travel demand looks very promising, with a healthy start and a positive outlook,” he adds.

Peak season visa processing

During peak season visa processing can take longer than anticipated, and this is common across all geographies and across all governments. Sen shared, “VFS Global manages only the administrative and non-judgemental aspects of the visa application process. Decisions on visa applications, including the availability of appointment slots and the timelines to process them, are at the sole discretion of the respective client governments and may vary from one mission to another. VFS Global maintains its standard turn-around-time of processing visa applications in one business day to send to respective embassies/ consulates for decision-making. There could be an additional day due to the hub and spoke travel time required between cities, as and when applicable.”

Sen added, “We also urge responsible travel partners to create awareness about scammers and fraudulent entities who charge fees from visa applicants for scheduling appointments or providing any other services independently.”

Steps improving customer experience

One of the most defining changes observed in customers’ expectations and behaviours post the pandemic has been the increased important to heath considerations and prioritising safe travel. This has led to a wider acceptance of personalised and digital solutions. Sen shared, “VFS Global’s Visa at Your Doorstep service, which enables travellers to bring the entire visa application experience including biometric enrollment to their homes or offices, has seen around 5x growth in 2022 against 2019. Similarly, VFS Global has observed a steady rise in demand for its Premium Lounge service that comprises individual assistance with all visa related queries, quicker completion of the application submission process, and immediate biometric enrolment, all within a plush lounge facility.”

VFS Global’s focus on customers has been the distinguishing feature of its journey. “All of our innovative services are designed to meet the changing requirements for trust, convenience, personalisation, reliability, and security. In response to the growing need for personalised and at-home services, VFS Global is moving more of the visa application process online, making it accessible from the comfort and safety of our customers’ homes,” he said.

Emphasizing on the technical aspects, Sen said, “We have also introduced the Digital Document Check and Digital Application Submission services for accurate and convenient online visa application submission. Our Digital Document Check service helps in better document preparedness through pre-submission review of their visa application, while our Digital Application Submission service helps customers in conveniently submitting their visa applications with our assistance on video chat.”

Future of visa processing

On the introduction of e-visas and visa-on-arrival in several countries, Sen said, “eVisa is one of the most innovative solutions implemented for simplification of cross-border mobility which, in turn, can boost economic growth. Easing of travel restrictions globally and gradual recovery of international tourism are pushing countries to explore innovative programs to boost tourism demand as countries providing smoother visa solutions tend to attract more travellers.”

He added, “We have recently introduced a fast-track visa-on-arrival service for Indonesia-bound travellers from 86 nationalities including India, which ensures a hassle-free travel experience with access to a fast-track immigration lane.”

Collaboration with trade partners

Highlighting the collaboration with travel trade partners to facilitate visa applications and processing for travellers, Sen said, “Our travel partners have always been the pillars of the travel ecosystem in India and expected to play a more critical role during this period of recovery. They are an integral part of the travel ecosystem and we have always valued their contribution, and their role will be even more important to rebuild confidence among travellers in this market.






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