Indonesian outbound travel companies looking to reap a good year-end harvest since the easing of travel restrictions are hitting visa roadblocks.
While many travel agencies are reporting intense demand for European holidays, some even seeing record-breaking requests and bookings, trip fulfilment has been marred by slow and delayed visa applications.
Edhi Sutadarma, tour director of Golden Rama Tours & Travel, said: “Although countries are open to visitors, not all are open to groups, like Italy and Germany. And those that welcome groups have limited capacity for visa processing. In fact, applications to some countries have been halted until January 2023.”
Agents also complain of changes to visa processing duration, with some being alerted only at the last minute.
Hellen Xu, CEO of Panorama JTB Travel, shared that a group of 28 travellers to Switzerland last week risked missing their flight due to such a change. After applications were submitted, her agency was informed that 21 days were needed for the procedure instead of 14.
“We were unsure if the group could go even on departure day. Our travellers were due to fly out at 18.20 and their passports were only returned to us at 16.00. Luckily, the airline was cooperative and the group was able to fly in the end,” she recalled.
Edhi noted that appointments for biometric clearance were also tricky to secure due to limited slots, making it difficult for his team to schedule visa applications.
Pauline Suharno, president of the Association of the Travel Agencies in Indonesia, said the visa problem has resulted in business losses for travel companies.
“They have to give full refunds to travellers if (the trip cannot be fulfilled). They have to pay cancellation fees to airlines and ground operators,” she said.
In July, TTG Asia reported that losses from cancellation charges and forfeited fees ran as high as US$500,000 for a single travel company.
To minimise losses, some agencies are rerouting their programmes to easier points of entry in Europe, according to Pauline. Others are pooling passengers with agencies holding group visas but have yet to meet minimum traveller numbers for departures.
Indonesian agents are also offering tours to destinations with friendlier visa systems, like Turkey, where visas are not needed.