Long waits for Schengen visas has eaten into the holiday plans are many Europe-bound vacationers, said travel experts.
While the waiting time for visa appointments is normally two weeks during summer, the addition of the mandatory biometric tests has forced some travellers to either call off their vacations or settle for another holiday destinations.
Since the additional check introduced late last year, travellers have to visit visa processing centres in person to give their finger prints data. The biometric data would be valid for 59 months, which means Indian tourists visiting European countries five years later would have to go through the process all over again.
“The summer months of April to June is the peak travel period to Europe from India, because schools are shut and families want to escape the heat here. This is the first summer season after the biometric tests were introduced hence some upset travellers were expected,” said a Colaba-based travel agent, who did not wish to be named.
Europe has been a hot favourite among Indians but bookings trends showed increasing interests for destinations such as New Zealand, Australia, Asia and US-Canada, according to travel operator Thomas Cook (India).
“The newly-launched biometrics process is only expected to go through initial challenges, and while this will not impact early bookers (and don’t forget Indians planning trips to Europe, generally make their bookings well in advance, an average timeline of 3 months), last minute travellers will prefer short hauls such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius, Thailand, Indonesia, Dubai-Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka, with easy access to either Visa on Arrival or e-visa, depending upon the country,” said Jatinder Paul Singh, senior vice-president-cum- head of sales and distribution for outbound leisure travel at Thomas Cook (India) Ltd.
The steady fall of the Indian Rupee could also have contributed to the drop in Europe-bound holidays, said travel companies. “There could be a 10% to 15% drop in bookings owing to the spike in package costs and waiting time for the visas,” said Sharat Dhall, president, Yatra.com.
He added that European holidays were ruled out for last-minute planners.