The Czech Republic yesterday officially opened its first Visa Application Centre (VAC) in India, in Mumbai with VFS Global. Inaugurating the same was H.E. Milan Hovorka, Ambassador Designate for the Czech Republic in India and Bhutan. Also present at the inauguration were Rashmi Jolly, Honorary Consul for the Czech Republic in Maharashtra & Goa; and Roman Masarik, Charge d’affaires a.i., Embassy of the Czech Republic in New Delhi. The second VAC of the European country will be officially unveiled in New Delhi tomorrow. The two Centres, however, have commenced operations.
Hovorka, who is currently on a visit to India after taking over as Ambassador Designate just recently, said, “I am extremely honoured and privileged to represent the Czech Republic in India, and I would be more than keen to take bilateral relations between our two countries to the next level. I will be coming to Mumbai on a regular basis. India is an important country, and Mumbai is an important part of this nation. We are interested in strengthening ties with other parts of India as well, and definitely we would like to promote people-to-people contact.”
About the new VACs, he said, “The new visa facilities demonstrate continuous commitment of the Czech authorities to improve quality of service for visa applicants. Their opening provides the right answer to the substantially increased interest in visiting the Czech Republic. I invite all to benefit fully from this new service.”
Adding to these comments, Vinay Malhotra, COO – South Asia and DVPC, VFS Global, said, “We are honoured to partner with the Embassy of the Czech Republic in India in providing services to facilitate the visa process to this beautiful European country that is fast emerging as a popular destination for business and tourist travellers alike. We are committed to provide professional and convenient services to applicants and are confident of delivering an efficient, world-class service that is safe and secure.”
With regard to the number of applications that the Czech Republic Embassy receives, Hovorka stated, “It’s amazing how so many Indians are willing to visit the Czech Republic. We are honoured to see the number of visa applications. In 2014, we got 9,000 applications, which is a 20% growth from that in 2013. For the first half of 2015, we got 7,500 applications. This is a tremendous increase in the number of Indians coming to visit our country.”
Talking about the focus segments that Czech Republic wishes to tap, Hovorka mentioned Wellness (spas), Golf, Group Tours, Destination Weddings, and Bollywood. He believes Bollywood can facilitate people-to-people contact, which is why it is an important segment. He also mentioned that the Czech Republic government provides incentives to the Bollywood industry to shoot films in the country.
Addressing a question on collaborations with the other 3 member nations of the European Quartet (a.k.a. Visegrád Group or Visegrád Four), namely Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary, to draw Indian tourists, Hovorka stated, “ The Czech Republic is at the helm of the Visegrád Group this year. We will be planning, very soon, what kind of activities we can do together in India. One of these is the annual roadshow (of the European Quartet), which will be held in December 2015, when we will visit different places.”
The Ambassador Designate went on to say that notwithstanding the political and economic changes that took place in the European Union, the economies of the four European Quartet nations have been stronger than those of the other nations in the continent. In that way, the four economies are interlinked, and though they compete at various levels, they have good reasons to work together, Hovorka added.