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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Europe's tightening visa rules losing it millions

Schengen Agreement Full Schengen EU members No...Image via Wikipedia
Source: The Guardian

By Nick Greenfield

Pico Iyer's piece on security and travel was very interesting, but sadly his assertion that Le Monde's famous 9/11 headline would now read "We are all Indians" is wide of the mark.

Europe is currently missing out on a huge number of visitors due to poor visa processing. It makes many people feel as if they are terror suspects before even leaving their own country.

When Indians have to travel hundreds of miles for interviews, Chinese people can't fill in a UK visa form in their own language and one national embassy can process precisely 90 visas a day in Indonesia, a country of 240 million, you know something is wrong.

An European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) survey last year asked how many people cancelled, postponed or simply gave up due to the process. It showed that the Schengen area is missing out on close to a projected €500m of tourism revenue.

David Cameron said he wanted to see the UK rise up the ranks in terms of Chinese tourism. But when 30% of clients are cancelling, he may be fighting a losing battle.

Europe prides itself as the number one tourist destination in the world, but a little more humility to visitors from emerging markets may be in order, rather than the usual heated debates on immigration.

An Indian couple I met last year sum this up. Successful business people, they had jumped through many hoops to reach Italy, their dream destination. When I asked them if they would consider moving there, the lady paused and said: "You do know we have 9% growth in Gujarat?"


Nick Greenfield is Head of tour operator relations, European Tour Operators Association
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