International borders have been closed as a result of Covid-19, and international travel has come to a halt. Flying for tourism purposes has yet to take off, with the exception of a few air-bubbles. The travel industry, which has been badly affected by the pandemic, is waiting for the right moment to resurrect. The pandemic has forever altered international travel, including visa applications. There are discussions about digital visas, wellness passports, and vaccine passports, among other things.
VFS Global's Regional Group Chief Operating Officer (South Asia, Middle East & North Africa, and Americas) Vinay Malhotra discusses the challenges ahead of international travel, the new normal in visa processing, health concerns taking centre stage even in the travel industry, and building an ecosystem for a safe future of travel in an exclusive interview with Financial Express Online. Given the current state of uncertainty, with cases on the rise in some areas and lockdowns still in place in a number of countries, including India, it would be premature to make any predictions about when the country will fully recover.
Authorities are also looking at how oversaturated destinations are handled, encouraging lesser-known destinations to disperse the tourism footprint, as well as switching to digital or environmentally sustainable communication platforms as a result of the pandemic. The success of vaccination campaigns, travel bubbles for particular travel routes and categories, and an increase in leisure or business travel from source markets have all been silver linings in recent months, and have been critical in restoring trust in the sector globally.
Customers will need to check the official travel advisories for public health advice or lockout guidance on a regular basis as cross-border travel laws change and lockdowns become the norm. Customers will need to be vigilant about health issues, consider travelling to a second city (or to a less crowded tourist destination), make more meticulous travel plans to limit any unforeseen circumstances, be prepared for unplanned stays in the event of movement restrictions, check the validity of their passport, understand whether their medical insurance covers COVID-19, and always check authentic sources of information.