The Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) took a 40-Member delegation (including Outbound Tour Operators and Media) to the British High Commission in New Delhi on April 20, 2023. The purpose of the meet was to apprise its members and media on the latest developments taking place in the UK, some fresh places to see and the most important was the Visa situation.
Ms. Christina Scott, British Deputy High Commissioner to India, started the meet by addressing the gathering and sharing that the destination has plenty for new offerings for the discerning Indian traveller. “The forecast for 2023 is that we are back to 90% of our 2019 arrivals and 2024 is going to be even better. People links are a key part of a strong and thriving UK-India relationship. Whether travelling for culture, history, sport, to see family and friends, or for exciting adventure, we welcome Indian visitors to the UK,” she said.
A detailed presentation by Ms. Tishtar Parakh, Travel Trade Executive – India highlighted various aspects of such as connectivity between India and UK, the wonderful Rail Network within UK, which can be used to discover its amazing towns and cities, the Entertainment options, Sports, History and Heritage, Food and Drinks and more. The delegation was also offered a glimpse of the UNBOX Britain – a 2 Season Web Series, which is being streamed on JioCinema OTT and follow Manjari Fadnnis and Madhurima Tuli as they experience everything wonderful that Britain has to offer.
Mr. George Farrell, Regional Manager for South and South East Asia, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) shared that the turnaround time for a standard visit visa application is inside the usual customer service standard timeframe of 15 working days, which was the norm pre pandemic. The aim this year is to process the majority of visit visa applications within customer service standard timeframes. He stressed that customers should apply in good time when making a visa application, and for those where this is not possible then there are priority services which enable a quicker decision. For appointments with VFS, all customers should be able to obtain an appointment for their biometric enrolment within 5 working days.
Ms. Neetu Prakash, Customer Account Manager – Visits, South and Southeast Asia, UKVI also gave a presentation on the occasion and explained how Britain issued 2.8 million Visas (globally) in 2022 out of which 1.3 million were Visitor Visas, 600,000 Sponsored Study Visas and 430,000 work-related Visas. “UKVI offer over 300 Visa Application Centres around the world, with multiple centres in key markets and 18 Visa Application Centres in India, which is the highest in any country’,” she explained.
Talking about the Training and Update meeting, Mr. Riaz Munshi, President, OTOAI said, “We are extremely delighted with the meeting at British High Commission in New Delhi. After informative presentations and reassuring insights into the easing up of visa process, our members made some significant suggestions such as being assigned some recognition, like a login id or code wherein the consulate is able to identify customers who are applying through verified tour operators and can be assured that the paper check is in place. This will also help them to pick out the ones who are not following protocols, especially with regards to paperwork. We have been assured that this issue will find a workable solution soon and that is very encouraging news.”
OTOAI also expressed deep gratitude to Mr. Vishal Bhatia, Country Manager – India, Visit Britain and Mr. Shuja Bin Mehdi, B2B Manager – India, Visit Britain for making this training and update meet a great success.