UAE travellers really felt the full impact of visa delays in the Summer of ’22, with processing times for the UK and EU stretching into weeks. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: After the hard won gains the global travel has had, prospects for 2023 should not be disrupted by needless delays to visa processing as happened in the summer of 2022.

"I think that the (processing time) of visas would be smoother and almost back to normal in the first quarter of 2023,” said Zubin Karkaria, CEO and founder of VFS Global, the visa processing agency.

“While it is not our job to work on the decision-making process for the visas, they (immigration departments) are ramping up operations and building resources so they can revert to their earlier timelines. Whether it's airlines, hotels or travel companies, everyone has learned through this experience.

“Nobody wants to miss out on the vertical upturn to come, and all (stakeholders) are working hard to make sure that 2023 is normalized."

Zubin Karkaria, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, VFS Global
Zubin Karkaria, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, VFS Global Image Credit: VFS Global

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This summer will be the time to take stock of whether leading travel destinations such as the UK will manage to bring in corrections. 

The waiting period for UK visas exceeded seven weeks in mid-2022, while visas to Schengen nations (an area comprising 22 European countries) were facing delays of over a month. All this even as demand to travel to these places soared.

Even though the processing time has by now dropped to around 15 days, UAE residents who needed Schengen visas during the December holidays faced further delays when making appointments. These delays forced several UAE residents to seek out destinations elsewhere – and with limited wait-time on visa issuing.

“Concerning the UK, there are super-priority services for businesspeople who can get their visas in 24 hours,” said Karkaria. “That is if you are willing to pay. Canada has also reduced its wait time.

“Most governments are prioritising reducing the backlog by putting additional resources in countries where they feel there will be a huge pent-up demand. For example, most governments have already started putting people back in China. They've already ramped up the embassies in China. They're doing the training programs with us for the launch.

"Travel has a new meaning in the post-pandemic world. We expect the recovery to continue building in 2023 – albeit with some volatility – on the back of huge travel demand. Enhanced travellers' confidence will further bolster outbound travel demand globally."

Demand will be from everywhere

China has opened up, and that should be enough to pad up the growth percentages for travel this year. According to the VFS Global CEO, demand this year is going to be coming in from all over.

“Travel is not about specific segments or certain countries; everybody will travel,” said Karkaria. “If you look at the large middle-class populations in India and China, India will cross the 2019 levels.

“Take Saudi Arabia. They, too, are well on their way to cross demand from 2019 levels. People will be more resilient, and the propensity to pay will be very high. There will be more destinations people will want to travel to as well.

“We have ramped up regarding resources and infrastructure to 2019 levels. It's the spikes in demand we need to consider - they are something we cannot predict.

Most governments allow uploading documents online, so you don't need physical prints. Some governments have their front-end system, where you can upload documents, and we double-check them to ensure correctness

- Zubin Karkaria of VFS Global