Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mark Tanzer – Chief Executive of ABTA comments on changes to Indian Visas

We are pleased to see the actions taken by ABTA following the announcement of the Biometric requirements for Indian Visas.  The below was the lead article in ABTA Today (their weekly magazine to the travel trade). 

Visas play an incredibly important role in the tourism industry. Countries wishing to attract UK tourists must strike the right balance of ensuring that security and border requirements are met while not making the process of obtaining a visa too onerous. Customers need a clear understanding of what they have to do and sufficient time to obtain the necessary documents. We are therefore concerned about the Indian Authorities’ recent announcement to move to a system where tourist visas can only be obtained via a face-to-face interview after making an online appointment. We believe this risks deterring UK nationals from booking travel to India. We have written to the Indian High Commission asking them to reconsider and outlined the risks of such an approach. Last year, following a similar request from ABTA, the Turkish authorities decided to give a longer lead in time for the abolition of visas on arrival. I would hope that the Indian Authorities will take an equally sensible approach.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Biometrics introduced for Tourist Visas to India

We have just discovered (today) that from mid-March all British tourists wanting to visit India will have to make an appointment to go in person to one of the VSF Application Centres to have their fingerprints taken. 

There was no warning of this major change and there has been no consultation process.  The news may be found on the High Commission of India website ( but there is no mention of it on either of the two websites where people apply for their visa on-line:

Nor has it yet appeared on the FCO website and it seems that the Visa Agencies were not given advance notice of this change either.  Odd as such a fundamental change such as this – requiring every visitor to India to present themselves in person would require a lot of planning. 

This new policy is bound to put off many travellers off from visiting India – particularly those who do not live in one of the cities where there is a Visa Application Centre (London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Bradford, Newcastle, Belfast, Cardiff, Bristol, Glasgow and Leicester).  Many of our customers live in rural positions far away from these metropolitan areas – some even live on the smaller islands such as the Channel Islands, Scilly’s, Hebrides.  The cost of getting the whole family to the mainland and then to one of the above cities to get their fingerprints taken is surely going to put them off booking a holiday to India.    

With the recent election of Narendra Modi to Prime Minister of India it was hoped that obtaining a tourist visa to visit India would become easier for British citizens and that we would soon join the ranks of tourists from other countries (including Germany, Norway and the USA) who are being offered Visa on Arrival.  So this news today has come as a huge shock to all of us in the industry. 

Changes to APD

The Air Passenger Duty (APD) - tax charged to air travellers departing the UK is the highest in the world.  On average UK passengers are paying five times more APD than people departing from other European countries that levy the tax (some do not charge it at all).  When quoting our customers for flights to India we find that often the tax is more (often considerably) than the fare. 

The rate has increased significantly since it was introduced in 1994 when it was £5 for economy passengers and £10 for higher classes.  It has increased on numerous occasions on some occasions doubled.  Now for a long haul flight you will pay £97 in economy and £194 for higher classes

However, there is now some good news.  From 1 May this year APD will be abolished for children aged between 2 and 12.  From 1 March next year this will include children up to 16 years old. Plus for adults the government has amended the four bands into just two.  This means that from 1 April this year the highest rate will be £71 or £142 for business class customers. 


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