Travel Visas Aren’t Scary
They’re the “elephant in the travel room,” so to speak. But let’s kick it out for now and talk openly. Travel visas are seen as one of the single-most dreaded aspects of the travel experience, right along with questionable airplane meals, coach buses with no air conditioning, and long lines at the lunch buffet. I digress. For many agents, travellers, tour companies, airlines, and travel industry leaders—dealing with travel visas is a confusing, bureaucratic mess that is not straightforward.
It’s often difficult to remember that in the space of travel visas, an endless chasm of paperwork uncertainty and doubts about legitimacy—there is a right answer for how to get a traveller the correct visa for their trip. However, no one wants to be to blame for when an application goes wrong and someone misses a trip. While some travellers and agents correctly apply for the right travel visas with minimal issue, a significant number continue to have difficulty. Finding the right information, and applying for the right travel visa, is where we squeeze that elephant back into the room.
1. The Current Myths
For agents and travellers, the message is clear: travel visas are messy. They are difficult to figure out, tedious to acquire, and can be expensive to access. Now, this was certainly true, and this message is largely still accepted as the current narrative. The myth persists so far as to shape a culture of avoidance of travel visas. So often we find “go check your embassy website” when completing the booking for a flight, tour, or trip of a lifetime.
Visas are “hands off” territory generally because the process to get one lends itself to being confusing. If the idea of handling another person’s passport doesn’t freak agents out, the liability behind providing misinformation for your client sure does. For travellers, there are the logistics behind obtaining the visa. Going to an Embassy or Consulate, taking time off work, waiting in line, all to answer a few questions, submit photo, and get a stamp or insert that allows for entry into a country at an often stiff fee. And if you get something wrong, one field on a form incorrect?
If a traveller doesn’t want to do all that, there are services that facilitate the the process for you. Unfortunately, most current services use outdated techniques and add unreasonable expenses. Rarely does a service allow agents or their clients the autonomy to confidently navigate the process with a user-friendly experience. Here lies the current state of the travel visa: they are always “someone else’s problem”. Visas are the “pass the buck” of the tourism world, and your clients usually end up bearing the burden.
2. The Current Visa Landscape
The travel visa landscape is changing quite rapidly. Visas should be no problem at all, and agents
should face them with a more cautious confidence. Why, you might ask? Because some travel visas aren’t that scary. While, okay, yes - applying for a travel visa to China and Russia are still quite difficult, the movement of governments to decreasing bureaucracy means ease of travel reflective in their visa processes. Now, before you roll your eyes, let’s understand how this has happened.Put simply, travel technology is catching up to human mobility. The other reason is that governments have increasingly recognized tourism as an important industry. In an age of contemporary globalization, it was only a matter of time before the average citizen with disposable income was shook to life by curiosity and grabbed a plane ticket. In response to this, India, Turkey, Sri Lanka, and most recently, Vietnam, and Brazil (in 2018) have implemented an e-Visa scheme for entry. An eVisa (also commonly referred to as an e-visa or evisa) is simply the electronic version of the typical embassy visa to gain entry into a country for shorter stay visits. eVisas are obtained electronically before the traveller embarks on their journey. Where in the past travellers needed a physical sticker or stamp in a passport for entry, most of the eVisas today replace those. An eVisa does not replace your passport, however, as they are something that accompanies your identification at a border. Because eVisas are processed online, travellers can snap a photo of your passport page, answer a couple questions, and voila – an eVisa can be processed in a couple minutes! Much easier and faster for everyone. As a result, moving to an eVisa for has been attributed to tourism booms in India, Turkey, and Australia.
3. The Solutions
Whether you’re a seasoned globetrotter or a first-time agent, it’s important to understand the travel visa space. Travel visas have been a very awkward part of the travel experience for years, but this is changing as we speak. The process is becoming easier and clearer. What has been needed is a helpful tool to assist any agent to be able to confidently check all the requirements in one place, in terms agents and their clients understand. Luckily, there are alternatives that can make the the life of a traveller that much less stressful. Companies like Sherpa provide a user-friendly platform and a set of tools allowing tour companies, travel agents, and the travellers themselves to confidently find the right information in one secure place, and apply for those travel visas through a very straightforward process. For agents, this means that if you're selling a location that requires a difficult travel visa like China, Sherpa works with agents to provide you with service to make even the Chinese tourist visa easier. Sherpa offers peace of mind to your clients, and also offers a commission model that allows agents to boost their business, or offer the discount to their clients.
4. Key Takeaways
We’re not saying visas are to be taken lightly. Within the global travel industry, the visa landscape serves as one of the few tangible intersections where national security meets head on with a country’s tourism industry. As such, new emphasis must be placed on maintaining the integrity and legitimacy of borders, documents, and related processes while minimizing the bureaucracy needed to cross them.
Having said that, it’s an exciting time for the whole industry—as new technologies connect the world in new ways. Agents shouldn’t feel pressured to shy away from potential sales—or unique travel experiences for clients - because of the visa process. Travel visas don’t have to be scary—and with the right tools in your hands you can tackle your clients next adventure confidently from start to finish!