Europe is currently missing out on a huge number of visitors due to poor visa processing, according to the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA).
Nick Greenfield, the head of tour operator relations for the organisation, said this week:
‘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 ETOA survey last year asked how many people cancelled, postponed or simply gave up due to the process.
Alarmingly, it showed that the Schengen area alone is missing out on close to a projected €500m of tourism revenue.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said he wanted to see the UK rise up the ranks in terms of Chinese tourism. But Greenfield argues that ‘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 Greenfield asked the couple if they would consider moving to Italy, the lady paused and said: “You do know we have 9% growth in Gujarat?” Source: ETOA.
Visa issues not only damage the tourism market. Each year countless students miss out on university places in the UK because they have been refused a student visa or it took to long to be issued.
Leading student placement provider UK University Services say that delays and incorrect decisions are costing universities dear. A spokesman said:
‘The tier 4 student visa points based system has improved the situation compared to the previous regime, some embassies are still taking too long to issue a student visa.
‘Visa sections have been closed down as part of the centralisation hub and spoke system meaning that many visas are issued in another country.’
Last month Schiller International University, which is based in Florida and has four other international campuses, announced that it is closing its London campus and will not start its autumn semester as a result of new Tier 4 student visa rules introduced on 4 July.
According to the British Home Office, the education industry is worth £40 billion annually to the British economy, of which international students contribute £12.5 billion.
As the number of Tier 4 international students applying to come to the UK slows down leading healthcare colleges and universities are cutting fees or offering generous ‘bursaries’ – a posh academic word for discount.
Education providers are now forced to offer more flexible terms to sell their ‘CAS’(confirmation of acceptance for studies) allocations, which is great news for international students.
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