Get visas for South Africa in a breeze; Thailand, Malaysia ease rules These measures are part of initiatives by these nations to attract Indian tourists

Planning a trip to South Africa to see the wildlife at the Kruger National Park or the beaches of Durban? Getting a visa could be a breeze. Shopping trips to Malaysia and Thailand will also be cheaper now, with both nations waiving visa fees.
These measures are part of initiatives by these nations to attract Indian tourists. With the rupee’s value falling against the dollar, overseas travel for many Indians had become more expensive.
In 2017 tour operators had also complained about the frequent delays in visa processing, especially for South Africa. Earlier this week, the South African government announced a scheme to make visa processing quicker, with the consulate in Mumbai accrediting travel agents and tour operators to fast-track the process.
At present, it takes about five to seven days. In the peak season, it can take even longer.
“India has been a key source market for us and will continue to play a critical role in our long-term vision. We aim to surpass 100,000 visitors from India in 2019,” said Sisa Ntshona, chief executive officer, South African Tourism.
The tourism board did not share 2018 arrival figures.
The Malaysian government has waived visa fees for a 15-day single entry visa from this month. Under the policy, visitors will only have to pay a $20 processing charge for the visa.
Thailand has extended its free visa scheme till April. In November, Thailand had waived fee for visa-on-arrival for Indians and citizens of 20 countries till end January.
“Visas play a critical role in influencing travel decisions. Hence, visa facilitation announcements by Malaysia, South Africa, and Thailand can lead to strong demand, particularly during the key booking window for the summer travel season,” said Rajeev Kale, president and country head (holidays and visa services), Thomas Cook.
He added, “Our booking pipeline sees a surge of 15-30 per cent after such announcements. Free visa or visa-on-arrival schemes have sustained impact on demand.”
Keyna is a beneficiary of relaxed visa norms for Indians. In 2018, the number of Indians visiting the African nation increased to 125,000 from 80,000 in 2015. This is partly because children aged below 16 get a free visa, said Jacinta Nzioka-Mbithi, marketing development director of the Kenya Tourism Board.
Travel industry sources say that demand for short breaks has been low in January. One reason for this is there has been no long weekend.
But, summer booking trends look good.
“Overseas tours are now more expensive because of rupee depreciation. Reduction in visa complexities and free visas will encourage demand. Free visas will especially benefit group packages,” said Rakshit Desai, managing director of FCM Travel Solutions.
Greece and Kazakhastan are relatively new destinations for Indian travellers. But, these nations are also stepping up promotions.
In May last year, Kazakshtan announced a 72-hour free visa for Indian passengers taking an Air Astana flight. The Greek tourism ministry is also working to make visa processing smoother.
Last year 42,000 Indians visited Greece; in 2017, the number was 22,000.
“We are certain that these figures can grow within the next few years. The tourism ministry is in close co-operation with the foreign ministry and is doing its best to speed up visa issuance,” said Konstantinos Tsegas, secretary general of the Greek National Tourism Organisation.

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