With no relief in sight from the prolonged delays in granting of visas to Indian tourists by most of the foreign missions in India, the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), the largest and oldest travel industry association in the country, has reached out to the Indian government seeking its help in resolving the issue that has seriously hit the revival of outbound tourism from the country.
A press release issued by TAAI says that a delegation of TAAI, led by its president Jyoti Mayal met with Sanjay Verma, secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India on Friday. ‘‘The meeting request was made to the MEA to discuss and deliberate on the delay in the issuance of visas to the United States, Schengen and other countries. In a communication addressed to the Minister of External Affairs, TAAI sought interference of MEA through a government-to-government dialogue to resolve the issues,’’ says the press release.
TAAI says that being the apex and oldest body representing the trade, it has been regularly taking up issues related to the ease of travel and tourism with concerned ministries and stakeholders, leading to increasing footfalls for outbound, inbound & domestic markets. ‘‘We at TAAI are seeking MEA’s assistance by way of addressing the issues and challenges faced by the travel trade fraternity of India to make it more robust. The pandemic era has been a struggle for tourism survival & there is a huge opportunity to quickly revive as people are wanting to restart travel with huge enthusiasm,’’ Mayal told Verma in the meeting.
During the discussions, Mayal also conveyed to the ministry that the issuance of visas to the United States, and many Schengen countries, especially Greece, was a major hurdle that which travel trade fraternity was facing these days. ‘‘Members and clients have been reaching out to us at TAAI that they are unable to secure an appointment for visas for travellers and then the long delays in the stamping of visas without any proper communication,’’ Mayal told the official.
‘‘To make matters worse for tourists, in addition to the massive delays, some missions keep the passports for an indefinite period resulting in uncertainty and cancellations, which come at a huge cost to the travellers, given that confirmed air tickets and hotel vouchers are a requirement for visa applications. This provision must be done away with,’’ Mayal requested.
To boost inbound tourism into India, Mayal suggested that the government must extend the free visas that it had announced sometime back. She also said that duration of visas issued should be at least six months, with multiple entries. In line with that, E-Visa must be reinstated for all countries including UK and Canada as was the case before the pandemic, pre covid, to boost inbound tourism.
Highlighting the administrative bottlenecks for which TAAI has been communicating to other concerned ministries too and which are hampering the growth of the sector, Mayal said that the Air Suvidha form is an encumbrance protocol and therefore the same should be immediately scrapped. ‘‘Parallelly, mandatory health and comprehensive travel insurance on inbound e-visa / visa for the safety and security of travellers must be introduced,’’ Mayal suggested.
She also told the MEA that as tourism came under a wide spectrum of ministries, therefore there was a need to work collectively to achieve progressive and effective results. Taking this thought further, TAAI looks forward to being in continuous communication with the MEA to take more various discussed points into becoming a motivator and enhancer of tourism and bring in ease of travel to drive economic growth, says the press release.