INDIAN tour operators have expressed concern over the government's decision to make biometric data collection for UK tourists beginning March 14, saying it will handicap India's ability to grow tourist arrivals from the UK.
The move requires all UK tourists to make appointments online to visit any of the 14 visa application centres and have fingerprints taken there. Centres are located in cities including Cardiff, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool and Belfast.
The trade is far from happy. Subhash Goyal, president, Indian Association of Tour Operators, said: “We were looking to double tourist arrivals from UK this year. However, it will be not possible with mandatory biometric data collection.
“We have spoken to the tourism and home affairs ministries to express our concerns and requested they add the UK to the list of countries that can avail e-visas, which will then do away the need for a biometric test overseas," he told TTG Asia e-Daily on the sidelines of the Travel Agents Federation of India annual convention in Jerusalem.
TTG Asia e-Daily understands that the Ministry of Tourism has already recommended that the UK be granted e-visa services, and the Ministry of Home Affairs is likely to give the go-ahead sooner rather than later.
“The EU is moving towards a biometric regime. So, generally it is done in reciprocity – if a country requires a biometric test to be done for Indian tourists, we also do the same when their tourists visit India,” commented Ashwani Kakkar, executive vice chairman, Mercury Travels.
“But we have to understand that we need tourism more than some of these countries who have very large tourist numbers do. For example, France gets inbound arrivals of 80 million annually and we, as a country about four times larger, get only seven million tourists. So we have to be careful in implementing these tit-for-tat tactics.”
Kakkar added: “We have heard from UK tour operators that compulsory biometric data collection will make things difficult for them, as tourists may need to travel far from home to get it done. It complicates the entire travelling process.”