Withholding visas disrupted India programs
India’s decision to again issue visas for Canadians wanting to vacation in the Asian country is welcome news to tour operators that saw their India programs stalled as clients were unable to get the government documents required to enter the country.
India last month relented on the suspension of tourist visas, which were imposed as Ottawa and New Delhi feuded over the slaying of an anti-India Sikh activist in B.C. earlier this year, with the federal government charging India played a role in the killing, a claim quickly rejected by the Indians.
Indian anger over the federal government’s accusations prompted it to begin withholding visas for Canadians, effectively forcing tour operators to suspend their India programs.
“We are thrilled,” Moira Smith of Goway Travel said of the resumption of issuing visas, a decision made in late November.
Renata Snidr of NARAT in turn said that that tour operator was glad to see a resolution of the visa issue but noted tension remains between Ottawa and New Delhi.
“It was a relief to receive the announcement easing the visa restriction for Canadians by the Indian government, especially for preexisting NARAT tour reservations,” she said. “The relatively short time in which the decision was made is potentially an indication of the importance the travel sector plays in Canada-India commerce. As a tour company which carries exotic products, including operating several Asian tours, India has been a staple and popular destination in our inventory for many years. In fact, NARAT operates one of the most comprehensive tours of India that combine the principal sightseeing experiences of the country. We are, nonetheless, being cautious at this time in actively marketing the destination due to the evolving political situation between Canada and India. Our priority remains to ensure a streamlined and concern-free travel process on all our products for travel consumers. We would reevaluate our latitude promoting India in the upcoming year, taking into consideration progress made between the governments, and consumer sentiment.”
Tom Smith of Intrepid Travel’s Toronto office also welcomed New Delhi’s move.
“After two-months of suspension and confusion for travellers, it was a huge relief to see that India has resumed tourist visa services for Canadians this week,” he stated. “India has always been a highly popular destination with our travellers here in Canada and we’re thrilled that those whose plans to visit were disrupted by this will finally be able to take that trip. We look forward to continuing to host Canadians in this incredible destination.”
Guy Young, chief trade engagement officer at TTC Tour Brands, North America, said his company re-accommodated those who had been affected.
“After a brief two-month interruption, we are pleased that Canadians can once again apply for electronic visas when travelling to India,” he said. “Although very few of our Canadian guests were impacted by the temporary visa suspension, our TTC Tour Brands team actively worked with them to either change their travel dates or cancel their India tour without penalties. With things back to the status quo, we’re excited to welcome even more Canadians on any one of our incredible India tours. As the global leader in tours for any and everyone, we offer budget to luxury and everything in between – and when you factor in our MAKE TRAVEL MATTER experiences – we connect our guests to the real India in a way like no other.”
Meanwhile, Oakville, Ont., TPI agent Sheila Aue predicted India’s tourist trade will quickly benefit from the Indian government’s move
“With India once again reissuing visas to Canadians, it will definitely help with increasing interest in travel to India,” she said. “Many tourists had to cancel or hold off on plans to visit India due to this ban, so having the ban lifted will make the country more accessible and open for Canadians to want to return.”