The Indian tourist is going places and almost every foreign country wants a slice of his holiday spend. Leading the charge to woo Indian travelers are the European countries, who are going all out to fast-track the issue of Schengen visas that allow access to 26 member countries. Competing with each other, the consulates of European nations in Mumbai are stamping visas within the shortest period to become the preferred point of entry in Europe, enticing Indians to spend in their countries.
Only last month, the French consulate in Mumbai did away entirely with the tedious Biometrics collection process to cut the processing time. “As a result, we have doubled the number of visa applications we process in a day,” says Jean-Raphael Peytregnet, consul general of France.
Though Schengen countries typically quote an official period of 15 days to process visa applications, consulates are working hard to cut this period further.
About 15 million Indians travel abroad every year, with 20 percent of them going to Europe. The number has shot up by 50 percent in the past five years alone. It’s estimated that 30 lakh Indians travel to Europe annually.
The speed and ease of procuring a visa is a key factor in the popularity of a foreign destination. While Thailand and Sri Lanka even give visas on arrival, Dubai and Singapore have a hassle-free e-visa system.
It’s not only Schengen countries that are making more efforts, but even the gateway countries are doing a little more to woo Indians. For instance, Indians having a valid Schengen visa can get an e-visa for Turkey in a matter of minutes. Consequently, there has been a surge in tourists to Turkey, as well as a rise in the number of passengers traveling on Turkish Airlines, whose hub is Istanbul.