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Travel industry caught in the crossfire of India-Canada row, worry over long-term impact

Travel industry caught in the crossfire of India-Canada row, worry over long-term impact

The escalating diplomatic tensions between India and Canada are indeed a cause for concern for the Indian tourism industry. The impact of such tensions on travel plans and visa applications can be significant.

Jyoti Mayal, the President of the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) and a Board Member of the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism & Hospitality (FAITH), expressed her concerns about the situation. She pointed out that many travelers have already made bookings for travel between India and Canada. However, the ongoing diplomatic tensions are causing anxiety among travelers, leading to an expected surge in cancellations.

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Mayal also highlighted the potential for a lot of uncertainty in the coming days for travelers. This uncertainty can stem from not knowing how the diplomatic tensions will evolve and how they might affect travel plans and visa application processes. In particular, visa applicants may face delays or changes in requirements, further adding to the challenges faced by the tourism industry and travelers alike.

Sanjay Dang, the Managing Director of Le Travelworld, has raised concerns about the potential impact of reciprocal measures by the Canadian government in response to the suspension of visa services for Canadian nationals by the Indian government. This suspension, which took effect on September 21, 2023, was announced by BLS International, the company responsible for managing visa application centers in Canada. The visa services have been suspended indefinitely due to operational reasons, and there is no specified date for resumption.

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Dang pointed out that the suspension of visa services would particularly affect Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) who often visit India to reconnect with their hometowns and families. The travel plans of this segment of travelers are expected to be significantly disrupted by this suspension. Moreover, Dang suggested that India could potentially bear a greater impact from this suspension, possibly due to the larger number of Indian nationals traveling to Canada.

In summary, the suspension of visa services and the potential for reciprocal measures by the Canadian government are causing concerns within the travel industry, particularly for NRIs and those with travel plans between India and Canada. The situation is fluid, and travelers and travel agencies are closely monitoring developments in the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The deteriorating diplomatic relations between Canada and India are having ripple effects on various aspects, including the tourism and education sectors.

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Rajiv Mehra, President of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), highlighted that Canada is a crucial source market for India’s tourism industry. The suspension of visa services and uncertainties related to travel will likely impact the number of Canadian tourists visiting India. This setback is particularly disheartening because it was anticipated to be the first normal year for tourism since 2019. Canada is considered one of the significant source markets for India, alongside the US, UK, and Germany.

On the other side of the equation, Saurabh Arora, CEO & Founder of University Living, a student housing marketplace, noted that Canada has become an increasingly popular destination for Indian students pursuing education abroad. However, the strained diplomatic ties could raise concerns among Indian students about their prospects in Canada. Worries about visa complications and a less welcoming environment may prompt some students to reconsider their plans to study in Canada. As a result, alternative destinations for international education might become more attractive to Indian students.

In summary, the diplomatic tensions between Canada and India are affecting both tourism and education, with potential consequences for travelers and students alike. The situation underscores the interconnectedness of global relations and their impact on various sectors.

Gaurav Batra, CEO and Founder of Infinite Group, which specializes in study abroad solutions, has emphasized the critical importance of Canada reducing uncertainty around travel and visas, particularly because a significant portion of Canada’s economy relies on contributions from international students.

Batra pointed out that approximately 25 percent of Canada’s economy depends on international students, making it essential for the Canadian government to prioritize policies that attract and retain these students while ensuring their safety.

According to data from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, there are currently more than 1.3 million (13 lakh) Indian students enrolled in 79 different countries. Of these, over 180,000 (1.8 lakh) have chosen Canada as their destination. Canada has become the second most preferred country for Indian students, surpassing traditional favorites like the UK, Australia, UAE, New Zealand, and others. This surge in Indian students choosing Canada reflects the country’s appeal as a destination for international education.

In summary, Canada’s economy is significantly impacted by the presence of international students, with Indian students representing a substantial portion of this demographic. Maintaining a welcoming and safe environment for international students, including those from India, is crucial for Canada’s economy and its position as a preferred destination for education.

It appears that, for now, the tensions between India and Canada have not had a significant impact on Indian students studying in Canada. Gaurav Batra noted that there have been no reported issues from students studying in the country so far.

Rajiv Mehra also pointed out that the current period is not one where vacation travel to Canada is common. Students typically begin their sessions around this time, and their admission processes occurred in the preceding months, such as April, May, and June. As a result, many students have already obtained their visas and traveled to Canada, which explains why there haven’t been immediate disruptions for this segment of travelers.

Sanjay Dang, representing travel agents, mentioned that there hasn’t been any noticeable impact on travel demand or visa applications as of now. However, he cautioned that the situation could change in the coming weeks. The potential for delays or denials in visa processing could become a concern if there are negative comments or actions from the Canadian government regarding visas.

In summary, while there have been no major disruptions reported for Indian students in Canada or immediate impacts on travel plans, the situation remains fluid, and stakeholders are closely monitoring developments in diplomatic relations and visa processing between the two countries.

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