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Easier visa norms lure Indians to travel more

Posted on November 10, 2014
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United States has already eased visa issue procedures to attract a million Indian tourists by 2014

Foreign governments want Indians to backpack and travel even more. So they have eased their visa issuing norms. After Britain, Ireland and United States, its New Zealand that has made visa rules easier now.

Last week New Zealand announced it will offer visas to business visitors attending conferences and events in three days instead of its prevailing average ten-twelve days processing time.

United States has already eased the visa issue procedures with a view to attract a million Indian tourists by 2015. Visa interviews can take just about five minutes though there is no prescribed time limit laid down by the US government.

Britain and Ireland have launched a single visa scheme for Indian tourists.

“Most foreign government know about the potential of Indian travelers, so they are relaxing the visa norms. Countries including Indonesia, Philippines, Mauritius, Hong Kong, Thailand, Kenya, Maldives etc offer visa on arrival. Some countries offer an e-visa on fast track. Australian government is training more agents under the preferred agency scheme and under this scheme visas are being issued in two days without the need to deposit passport,” said Guldeep Singh Sahni, president of Outbound Tour Operators Association of India.

Indians who are not only travelling in large numbers but are also large spenders on foreign trips, are making the most of these opportunities to travel on long and extended weekends or making short haul trips.

Taking advantage of this, tour operator Thomas Cook says it has launched 48 hour holidays. “Visa has become in a way helpful to us. So we are telling travellers that give us a 48 hours notice and you can land at these short haul destinations. Easier visa from these destinations mean customers no longer need to restrict themselves to only Goa or Lonavala,” said Abraham Alapatt, Chief Innovation Officer, Head Marketing & Customer Service at Thomas Cook India Limited.

Cox & Kings too has launched products enabling customers to take care of easier visa norms. “We have identified destinations such Sri Lanka, Thailand, Seychelles, Maldives and Mauritius which have visa on arrival for Indians and have devised packages allowing customers to travel within 24 hours of booking,” said Karan Anand, head-relationships of Cox & Kings.

The United States offers a ten-year, multiple entry visa known as B1/B2 visa that can be used for both business and personal trips of a short duration.

Apart from increasing the consular posts and expansion of facilities in Mumbai and Hyderabad, US consulate general in Mumbai said the office is engaging with trade partners.

“From last October till now US consulate in Mumbai held about 150 briefings and reached out to about 17,000 travel agents, prospective travellers and students. Within the consulate we continue to routinely process more than 1,000 visa applications every work day,” the US consulate general spokesperson said.

“The U.S. Mission in India has witnessed back-to-back, year-on-year increases in visa issuances of about 20% during the last two fiscal years,” he added.

“While we do not have a prescribed time, it is not unusual for visa interviews to be under five minutes in length. Our well-trained consular officers’ questions are carefully honed to get the information they need in the shortest amount of time,” the spokesperson said.

“With the Indian outbound market poised to cross 16 million by the end of this calendar year, destinations are simplifying visa procedures for Indian nationals,” said Karan Anand , Head, Relationships, Cox & Kings.

Last year New Zealand attracted 35,000 Indian visitors but barely 8% came were business visitors and 2% came for conferences and events.

In order to boost the volume, the government signed memorandum of understanding with six tour operators and has promised visa in three days to Indians attending conferences and events. “Business events is a key focus sector for us,” said David Craig, general manager of Tourism New Zealand.

The number of Indians travelling abroad rose by 21% in the first half of this year as compared to the corresponding period last year, with Dubai emerging as the most preferred destination, according to a survey.

While Dubai has emerged as the number one destination, the US is the favourite country among Indian travellers, according to the report titled ‘Outbound Travel Trends’ released in Mumbai by global travel website Trip Advisor.

The findings were based on website traffic during the period between January 1 and June 30, 2014. Trip Advisor, however, did not given actual number of visitors visited abroad.

The number of Indians travelling abroad rose by 21% in the first half of this year as compared to the corresponding period last year according to a survey by Trip Advisor. While Dubai emerged as the number one destination, the US is the favourite country among Indian travellers.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/easier-visa-norms-lure-indian-s-to-travel-more-114111000886_1.html

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