The Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI), has asked the European Consulates and Embassies to streamline the Visa processes and guidelines.
The OTOAI, which represents over 2000 tour operators that provide outbound travel services, has written to the various missions and consulates of the European countries in India asking them for clarity and simplification of their travel visa processes. This comes in the wake of several complaints by travellers about prolonged delays in getting their visas for travel to Europe.
The foreign missions of most foreign countries, high on list of Indian travellers, have been caught by surprise by the sharp rebound in outbound travel from India that has come after two years of Covid-19 pandemic-induced closure of the market.
‘‘India is an important market for the European countries and there is a huge potential for growth for outbound market – that coupled with the pent up demand makes Indian outbound travellers an important segment for countries abroad. OTOAI strongly feels that a little cooperation on part of the Embassies and Consulates will help ease the Visa process and motivate people to travel abroad,’’ says OTOAI in its letter, that was sent earlier this week.
In its detailed letter sent to all European Consulates and Embassies, OTOAI says it has elaborately explained the various problems and issues being faced by the Indian outbound traveller.
These include the wait for visa appointments that is almost a month-long for many missions and which can be ‘extremely disheartening to the traveller’. The other issue is the visa processing time, after submission of documents. The OTOAI says it is also extremely long and often takes it takes the travellers up to 4-5 weeks more to get their passports back. This creates many problems for the travellers as well as the travel trade professionals.
‘‘Many people who are booking their holidays through the travel agents, book their air tickets and hotel bookings, which they then have to cancel if the visa does not come well in time. Also, the embassy often releases a couple of passports in a family and hold one or two passports back, yet again causing uncertainty, anxiety and losses to the agents,’’ complains the OTOAI.
‘‘At the time of submission of visa documents, no clear indication is given as to when one should expect the visa to come through,’’ it adds in the letter.
“We at OTOAI are committed to uplift outbound travel from India and are willing to assist the Embassies in any way possible. We understand that the Embassies currently are overwhelmed with the visa applications and we would be happy to help them out, in whichever way we can, to ease their burden. We strongly believe that it is only through our joined and concerted efforts that we will be able to go back to the outbound figures of pre pandemic levels. The outbound agents are losing revenue and clients because of visa delays and we would humbly request the consulates to look into the problem on priority basis and take immediate action,” says Riaz Munshi, President, OTOAI.