THE LAUNCH of two new India visa application centres (VACs) in Singapore, managed by VFS Global, received mixed responses from travel consultants, who welcomed the move but deemed it insignificant in boosting travel to India.
India’s tourism minister, Subodh Kant Sahai, said in an official statement that he hoped the VACs – located at Rangoon Road and Anson Road – would facilitate travel to India for Singaporeans. Tour consultancies handling Singapore’s outbound market to India, however, believed that the new VACs would have a negligible impact on demand.
Rajeev Kohli, joint managing director, Creative Travel India, said: “The opening of the two centres in Singapore will certainly make it easier for Singaporeans to submit applications. However, I doubt that this will heighten demand dramatically. In fact, Singapore has been on India’s visa-on-arrival list for a while but this has not translated into a significant increase in arrivals.”
“In my opinion, a similar service for core markets such as the UK would have been a more logical priority for the government, as Singapore constitutes a minute proportion of arrivals into India each year,” he added.
Ramesh Travel Service Singapore’s general manager Ram Samtani also expressed similar views that the VACs would do little to augment demand. He said: “The Indian government should focus on marketing India more actively to Singaporeans instead. Many are still unaware of tourist spots outside the Golden Triangle.”
The two new centres highlighted the High Commission’s commitment to improving its service capabilities though, said Samtani. “Previously there were five appointed visa administration bureaus in Singapore, four attached to travel consultancies and one to a courier company. This has now been whittled down to two – VFS Global and BLS International Services – which are both specialists in visa processing so there’s no conflict of interest. It is definitely the right approach,” he said.
VFS Global and BLS International Services are both entrusted with accepting and processing applications for passport, visa and other consular services. All applications will continue to be assessed by the High Commission of India, Singapore.