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Image: visa:VIN JD ; passpport: cytis both from Pixabay
Airlines ready, hotels open, but travellers are still plagued by visa woes

June 22, 2022: Airlines ready, hotels open, but travellers are still plagued by visa woes The travel, tourism and hospitality industries have lifted themselves by their bootstraps, made sustained and cooperative efforts to return to normal – or close to it – after 2 years and more of pandemic problems.
Their customers – tourists and corporate travellers – have overcome many challenges, including their own fears and have decided to travel for pleasure or business.
But they – the industry and their clients -- have been  let down by multiple governments who have shown themselves to be woefully unprepared  to handle the rush to travel which every one anticipated and predicted.
Their main role in the ecosystem of travel and tourism is to issue visas to intending travellers.  And in this, many governments have failed.
The principal culprits are the Usual Suspects : The UK, USA and the European Union ( Schengen) nations.
 In India, it can now  take 2-3 months to get a visa for Greece; 3-5 months for UK.  The problem is compounded because many of these western nations insist on a physical interview before even considering a visa application. Horror stories are there aplenty:
The Times of India reports that a  company CEO whose visa expired in August 2021 and who was entitled to a renewal without an interview,  has been asked to kick his heels in India and submit  his application for extension in November 2022.
A Bangalore-based scientist needs to visit Bonn, Germany for a summer school. It looks like summer and autumn will be gone before  he even  gets a slot for a visa interview according to a report in   LiveMint.
The Travel Agents  Association of India told The Print that the number  visa applications from India for tourism, business or studies  is now 20% higher than pre-pandemic 2019. Clearly life is back to normal – almost – except in the consular offices of European and American countries who still complain of staff shortages.
TAAI  an umbrella organisation representing over 2,500 travel firms, has sought government intervention in overcoming visa  interview delays by some countries and also  sought the removing air suvidha requirement for the inbound.
Frustration, anger, anxiety. These three words describe the state of mind of every person
waiting for the UK visa.
 Hindustan Times June 16, 2022
“Issuance of visas to the US, and many Schengen countries, especially Greece, is a major hurdle these days.… unable to secure an appointment for visas for travellers and then the long delays in the stamping of visas without any proper communication,” TAAI said in a statement, “In addition, some missions keep passports for an indefinite period resulting in uncertainty and cancellations which incur a huge cost to the traveller given that confirmed air tickets and hotel vouchers are a requirement for visa applications, which must be done away with,” it said ( Times report June 18 2022)
Agencies like VFS Global who handle the visa process for many of these countries have no solutions to offer and refer all who enquire to the respective visa granting nations.
The UK which has always made a big thing of the large number of students it attracts every academic year, has apparently not planned for the sudden surge in such visa applicants, once British universities opened their door again. Hindustan Times reports that the normal waiting time for student visas which can range between 3 and 6 weeks is now extending to 12 weeks or more. The British High Commission’s solution?  Make more money out of this crisis.
It points anxious students and other visitors including tourists to its priority and super priority services for visas within 1-2 days.  For students, it charges an additional pound sterling 220 for priority and 956 for super priority processing. (1 pound is approximately Rs 95). For other users, including tourists, a priority visa will set you back Rs 60,546 and a super priority Rs 1,01,020.