As the economic slowdown hits the travel sector hard,its effects can be seen across the board and in figures of Indian tourists vacationing abroad. According to Peter E Specker,Consul General,Switzerland,there has been a decline of nearly 25% between November December 2008 in the number of Indian tourists visiting the scenic country.
The Consul General of Netherlands,Jan F. Van Vriesland also reported a fall of 30% in Indian traffic for the month of January. Specker and Vriesland along with Consul Generals of France,Italy,Belgium and Netherlands were speaking at the inauguration of a joint visa application center for the Schengen countries a group of 25 European countries that allow travel between their borders on a Schengen visa.
The Schengen visa center is a unique concept wherein people wishing to visit Schengen countries will get visa services of six Schengen countries from a single source. However,visa services for only six countries will be provided at the Schengen Visa Application Center (SVAC).
Many countries do not wish to outsource their visa processing as the numbers are quite few, said Sanjay Bhaduri,Chief Operating Officer,VFS Global,a consular services facilitation company and part of the Zurich-based Kuoni travel group. The increase in number of Indians traveling to European destinations over the last few years has manifested itself in a requirement to process large volumes of visa applications. The SVAC model is an ideal solution to meet this kind of demand collectively, he added.
SVAC also aims to process 400 to 500 visa applications in the non-peak seasons and between 1,500 to 2,000 visas in the peak seasons that starts in March and goes on till June. A similar center will also open in Delhi in two weeks, said Ajit Alexander,Vice President,VFS Global. Also,Mumbai is only the fourth such center in the world with Dubai,London and Acra in Ghana being the other cities hosting such a visa application center.
Mumbai also happens to be the biggest centre with counters of six countries. In London there are three counters and in the Dubai center we have four,” said Alexander.