Top News Indian tour operators rue absence of e-visa facility for key source markets By Rohit Kaul / Posted on 31 October, 2022 13:54 The continued absence of an e-visa facility for travellers from critical source markets Canada and the UK is putting Indian inbound operators on edge, as they see potential business being lost to other more accessible destinations. Indian inbound operators told TTG Asia that they have been demanding that the facility be resumed at the earliest. Deva: travellers are discouraged by inconvenient visa procedures The lack of in-person visa application appointments in the UK is also resulting in a significant number of trip cancellations to India, sources said. Dipak Deva, managing director of Sita, TCI & Distant Frontiers, told TTG Asia that India’s tourism industry has much to lose from this situation. “The largest source market for us is the UK – both in terms of volume and traveller spend. There has been a large number of cancellations in the last four weeks owing to the absence of the e-visa facility coupled with a (lengthy) waiting time to apply in-person for a visa, detailed Deva. Although more visa slots are opening up now, travellers are still turned off by the inconvenience, he added. Subhash Goyal, chairman of STIC Travel & Air Charter Group, said India’s introduction of the e-visa facility in 2014 had been a game-changer for the country’s tourism industry. Prior to that, visa applications for India was largely considered a tedious process. “It was because of the e-visa facility that we recorded 11 million inbound tourists in 2019 and the country earned about US$30 billion in foreign exchange. However, as the government has stopped e-visa for two of the most important source markets (for India), inbound tourism has been adversely impacted,” said Goyal. Indian tour operators are seeing potential customers moving to other destinations. “After 2.5 years of the pandemic, the last thing you want is your largest source market being damaged because of a visa issue. This is a very important decision factor for a traveller, and they will opt for other destinations like Vietnam and Japan if a convenient visa option is not available,” stated Deva. He noted that most of the UK customers who had cancelled trips to India were already booked to go to Japan instead. Travel stakeholders in Goa also warned of severe business impact, as the UK contributes to charter business during the current peak inbound season. “No charter clients will book India if they have to wait for a visa. Goa has a lot to lose from the absence of e-visa facility,” said Deva. Deva also rued the weak destination marketing undertaken by the tourism ministry. He believes that promotions should have started six to eight months ago in various source markets to build demand for India. “This is an opportunity lost,” he concluded.