The process of applying for a visa to visit Europe is so unpleasant that over 450,000 tourists are deterred from coming. This is a core finding of the latest European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) report on visa applications. Indian and Chinese tourists applying for Visas are most likely encounter bad communication and red tape.
Visa processing by the UK is identified as that 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.
“Applications clearly have to be made available in the applicants’ mother tongue,” says Tom Jenkins, Executive Director of ETOA. “Not doing so breaks a basic rule of sales and certainly acts as a disincentive to travel. It displays a sweeping arrogance to applicants. It is inconceivable that China would force Europeans to fill out visa applications in Chinese.”
Despite the fact that China has been singled out as one of the most important growth markets for Europe, 26% of all potential Chinese clients cancelled their trips to Europe owing to the slow processing of Schengen Visas. Before being granted a visa to come to the UK, Chinese citizens have to fill out forms in English and present themselves at a consulate, where they are finger printed and interrogated about their life, wealth and prospects. As part of this process, some applicants are denied visas, but a greater number give up because the process is too painful or takes too long.
Germany was ranked as the best consular authority at processing visas – with punctuality, speed of processing, flexibility and friendliness being the most important factors.
ETOA’s survey of tour operators and agents, which was conducted over the summer, focused on origin markets whose citizens must obtain a visa to visit the EU. These markets represent key growth opportunities for EU tourism.
Tom Jenkins says, “The cancellations caused by problematic visa processing have repercussions. It is not an easy decision to go to Europe. It is harder to then publicly change your mind. That Europe is perceived as slow and bureaucratic is a major disincentive in itself.”
Conservative estimates by the European Tour Operators Association put the financial loss to the European Union, caused by poor visa processing at over €500 Million per year.