Addressing the travel trade at the VisitBritain’s 2nd edition of Great Tourism Week (GTW) in New Delhi yesterday, James Bevan, British High Commissioner to India, revealed that 350,000 visas have been issued to the Indian travellers in the first six months of this year, which is a 15% increase over the same period a year ago. “India is UK’s biggest visa operation market and 91% of Indian nationals are successfully granted the UK visa. The average processing time is 6 days and 98% of decisions are made within 15 working days. We aim to improve the visa processing system on a regular basis,” stressed Bevan. Promoting the James Bond movie ‘Spectre’ in India in November, ‘Bond is Great’ would be another addition to the ongoing ‘Britain is Great’ campaign.
The 9-city B2B engagement road show has already been concluded in Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata and Delhi and will now move to Lucknow (September 11), Chennai (September 14), Bengaluru (September 16) and will culminate in Hyderabad (September 18). The Delhi edition of GTW witnessed 13 suppliers and 220 tour operators.
Natasha Woollcombe, Regional Communications Manager – South & Southeast Asia, UK Visas and Immigration, British High Commission, New Delhi, informed that in association with VFS Global they are conducting a survey among tour operators at the GTW road show to identify newer cities for setting up visa application centres in India. “This is a very initial stage wherein we are just conducting the survey to understand key markets for establishing new visa application centres apart from the 15 centres already operational. Other information would be rolled out in due course of time considering the viability,” she said.
She also added that the UK Visas and Immigration Department at the British High Commission in New Delhi would also be considering new cities for extending the mobile visa processing centre (operational for 1 day in a month) which was earlier launched in Goa.
Talking about the Passport Pass-back service, Shivali Suri, Country Manager-India, VisitBritain, elaborated, “Passport Pass-back service makes it easier and time-saving for travellers to apply for 2 visas at the same time, by returning an applicant’s passport once they have applied for their visa, chargeable at Rs 4,000 in addition to the visa fee. The service is not applicable for those already using the Super Priority or Priority Visa Services.”
The response to the GTW road show has been overwhelming from tour operators in Pune and Ahmedabad whereas Delhi and Mumbai has always been a hit. We are tapping Lucknow for the first time and are hopeful of a great response, she averred. “Looking at the provisional figures of this year from the Indian market, I am optimistic of closing this year on a positive note. Going forward we will be continuing with the Bollywood campaign and co-operations with our trade partners. 900 agents have been certified as BritAgent, which is a 128% increase since the inception. A new module on Wales has been added to the training module and a seminar on BritAgent would also be organised soon,” confirmed Suri.
Rakhee Dutta, Head – Business Development & Alliances, Cruise Professionals
This was the first time that we have associated with VisitBritain’s 9-city GTW. We are promoting 2 products – P&O Cruises of UK and Cunard Cruises. Both the cruises have sailing in various parts of Europe which is why we felt it would be apt to showcase our offerings at this platform. Starting from April to October and early November, the cruises cover European itineraries. This platform has widened our reach to a number of agents selling cruises. Thus, with a good amount of awareness being built up, we hope to see an increase in business by next season.
Abhishek Singh, Sr. Manager – Sales & Marketing, Lets Travel Services Limited of UK
It is our first time at the VisitBritain’s 9-city GTW and we have received a great response from agents selling Europe preferably. We are travelling to all 9 cities and getting to understand the requirements of the agents. The networking opportunity at Mumbai, Pune and Delhi has been overwhelming. Honeymooners, self-drive holidays, business travel and theme-based tours (from business point of view) are much in demand from the Indian market to Europe. We will be launching a web portal for the B2B clients in two months.