Nearly half a million visitors have postponed or even cancelled trips to Europe due to the complexities of visa application programmes it has been alleged.
Findings from the latest European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) report on visa applications suggest some 450,000 tourists were deterred from visiting Europe as a direct result of the visa system
Indian and Chinese tourists applying for visas were the most likely to encounter bureaucratic headaches, argues the report, with many deciding to abandon travel plans.
Visa processing by the UK was identified as the most likely to cause potential visitors to give up on their travel plans, closely followed by France.
Over 58,000 tourists cancelled their trips to the UK owing to slow visa processing, and ETOA estimates that nearly 314,000 decided not even to apply.
“Applications clearly have to be made available in the applicants’ mother tongue,” said Tom Jenkins, executive director of ETOA.
“Not doing so breaks a basic rule of sales and certainly acts as a disincentive to travel. It displays a sweeping arrogance to applicants.
“It is inconceivable that China would force Europeans to fill out visa applications in Chinese.”
While China has been singled out as one of the most important growth markets for Europe, 26 per cent of all potential Chinese visitors cancelled trips to Europe owing to the slow processing of Schengen visas.
Before being granted a visa to come to the UK, Chinese citizens have to fill out forms in English and present themselves at a consulate, where they are finger printed and interrogated about their life, wealth, and prospects.
As part of this process, some applicants are denied visas, but a greater number give up because the process is too painful or takes too long.
Germany was ranked as the best consular authority at processing visas - with punctuality, speed of processing, flexibility, and friendliness being the most important factors.
Conservative estimates from the European Tour Operators Association put the financial loss to the European Union caused by poor visa processing at over €500 million per year.