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Thursday, 02 January, 2020, 13 : 08 PM [IST]

'We have witnessed increase in demand from Tier-II cities'

VFS Global has witnessed a surge in demand for its doorstep visa services from a growing number of Tier-II and III markets in India. In an interaction with Disha Shah Ghosh, Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO – South Asia, Middle East & North Africa, Americas, VFS Global, speaks about reaching a milestone in visa applications as well as their Global Privilege Program.

Q With VFS Global clocking in 200 million visa applications globally within 4 years of reaching the 100 million mark, what factors would you attribute this milestone to?
This important milestone is owed completely to the continued faith and support of our customers, client governments and travel trade partners. Clocking the second 100 million well within 4 years is indicative of the recent growth in global travel which can be attributed to various reasons such as increased disposable income, new airports across geographies, third party facilitators, among others.

Q The Indian travel market has changed drastically in the past decade with an influx of overseas tourism boards. In such a scenario, what kind of competition do you witness among destinations to gain tourists from India with regards to the visa patterns?
India's vast population, which is keen to explore new destinations, has always been an important source market for numerous countries. In fact, according to UNWTO, Indians will account for 50 million outbound tourists by 2020; a jump from 8 million Indian outbound travellers a decade ago.

With this surge in travel and demand for seamless experiences, client governments, too, are investing in catering to the new-age traveller needs that demand engagement, convenience, personalisation and customisation.



Furthermore, there have been sustained efforts by various destinations to make it easier for Indians to enter their country. Earlier this year, the Immigration Bureau of Thailand, in conjunction with VFS Global, introduced e-visa on arrival to take away the hassle of queues and documentations travellers face upon arrival at the airports. Similarly, UKVI introduced a new self-upload option right before the Cricket World Cup to make the documentation submission process easier. With Indians travelling all year round, some of these initiatives are helping our client governments offer a holistic experience right from the very first step.

Q What kind of traction do you observe for visas from Tier-II and III cities in India?
Our network of centres that are spread across 17 cities and have witnessed an increase in demand coming from non-metros. A strong reflection of this growth can be gauged from the y-o-y growth visa applications saw in 2018 from cities like Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Puducherry and Goa. Demand for our doorstep visa services nearly doubled in cities such as Lucknow, Shillong, Nagpur, Bhubaneshwar, Mangalore, and Gurugram. Allahabad, Amravati, Thiruvananthapuram, Erode, Surat, Nagercoil, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Tiruppur, Muzzafarpur, Indore, Palakkad, Guwahati, Jodhpur, and Chattarpur entered the demand circle for the first time in 2018.

Q Any diversification plans in the pipeline to add more administrative or non-judicial services to the VFS Global portfolio?
We are happy to announce that we are an official ticket partners for the highly anticipated Expo 2020 in Dubai for GCC, India, China, Russia, UK and Germany. B2B ticket sales have already commenced and B2C tickets will be available early next year through our Visa Application Centres and on vfsglobal.com.

Q How has the VFS Global Privilege Program shaped up?
The Privilege Program is a series of well-crafted and personalised packages for customers, offering services such as Premium Lounge access for end-to-end assistance, courier return of passports and documents, relationship manager assistance, complimentary Forex cards, among others. The programme has been well received in India and the UAE, where we have been offering this service so far and have witnessed a positive demand, so much so that we extended the same to The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last year. The Privilege Program is just one of several initiatives we have in place to offer customers the best experience when applying for a visa.

disha.shah@saffronsynergies.in
 
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