Visa struggles continue for Indonesians

Indonesian outbound tour companies looking to reap good year-end harvest as easing of travel restrictions hits visa hurdles.

While many travel agents are reporting strong demand for European holidays, with some even seeing record-breaking inquiries and bookings, slow and late visa applications have hampered travel fulfillment.

The fulfillment of the trip was hampered by slow and late visa applications

Edhi Sutadarma, Tour Director of Golden Rama Tours & Travel said: “Although countries are open to visitors, not all are open to groups, like Italy and Germany. And those that welcome groups have limited visa processing capacities. In fact, applications for some countries have been suspended until January 2023.”

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Agents are also complaining about changes in visa processing times, with some only being notified at the last minute.

Hellen Xu, CEO of Panorama JTB Travel, shared that a group of 28 travelers to Switzerland last week risked missing their flight due to such a change. After submitting the application, her agency was informed that the procedure would take 21 instead of 14 days.

“We weren’t sure if the group would be able to leave on the day of departure. Our travelers were due to depart at 6.20pm and their passports were not returned to us until 4pm. Luckily the airline was cooperative and the group ended up flying,” she recalls.

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Edhi noted that biometric clearance appointments are also difficult to schedule due to the limited time slots, making it difficult for his team to plan visa applications.

Pauline Suharno, president of the Association of Travel Agencies in Indonesia, said the visa problem has resulted in lost business for travel companies.

“You must provide full refunds to travelers if (the trip cannot be fulfilled). They have to pay airlines and ground operators cancellation fees,” she said.

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In July, TTG Asia reported that losses from cancellation fees and missed fees amounted to as much as $500,000 for a single travel company.

To minimize losses, some agencies are redirecting their programs to easier entry points in Europe, Pauline said. Others pool passengers with agencies that hold group visas but have yet to meet the minimum number of travelers for departures.

Indonesian agents also offer tours to destinations with friendlier visa systems, such as Turkey, where visas are not required.

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