Visa snags cost Europe half a million tourists annually

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Over 450,000 tourists a year are deterred from travelling to Europe due to the lengthy and tedious visa application process, according to the latest European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) report on visa processing.

Conservative estimates by the ETOA put the financial loss to the European Union (EU), caused by poor visa processing, at over €500 million (US$698 million) per year.

ETOA’s survey of tour operators and agents focused on origin markets whose citizens must obtain a visa to visit the EU such as China, India and the Middle East.

UK visa procedures were identified as most likely to cause potential visitors to give up on their travel plans, closely followed by France. Over 58,000 tourists cancelled their trips to the UK owing to slow visa processing, and ETOA estimates that nearly 314,000 decided not even to apply.

ETOA noted that Indian and Chinese tourists applying for visas were most likely to encounter bad communication and red tape.

“Applications clearly have to be made available in the applicants’ mother tongue,” said Tom Jenkins, ETOA executive director. “Not doing so breaks a basic rule of sales and certainly acts as a disincentive to travel. It displays a sweeping arrogance to applicants.”

Jenkins added: “The cancellations caused by problematic visa processing have repercussions… That Europe is perceived as slow and bureaucratic is a major disincentive in itself.” (TTG Asia)