With the recent opening of the Slovak visa processing centre in New Delhi on March 27, 2019, in association with VFS Global and followed by centres in Mumbai and Bengaluru, H.E. Ivan Lančarič, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic in New Delhi shares the progressing steps towards attracting more Indian travellers to Slovakia
With the opening of new visa centres in three prime Indian metro cities, how do you see more Indians travelling to Slovakia?
The opening of three visa centres in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, respectively, brings the possibility of convenient and easier access to submit Schengen visa application for Indian travellers.
Our objective is to attract more travellers from India to Slovakia. It all starts with visa applications and therefore, we have taken concrete steps to facilitate and speed up the process, such as launching three new visa centres in India and doubling the capacity of our consular department.
The cooperation with VFS Global also means that the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in New Delhi can process more national ‘D visas’ for Indian students or future employees of Slovak companies. VFS Global has signed the mandate to service Slovak visa in 10 countries including India through a network of 38 visa application centres.
How do you plan on enhancing the bilateral relations between your country and India in order to boost tourism traffic?
In 2018, around 12,000 Indians visited Slovakia with majority of them coming for business purposes. We plan to address agents and tour operators in India in order to get their support for Slovakia as a worthy destination. Developing partnerships with the right agents can have a significant impact on the travellers from India. We also plan to develop closer cooperation between Indian tour operators with the Slovak ones, based on mutual benefit.
Which all segments and how many of Indian tourists are you aiming for, by the end of the year 2019?
We understand that India as a big country that would prefer to explore big countries having a lot of possibilities of tourism. We will try to divert Indian travellers from this approach. We would shift Indian’s attention to Slovakia where everybody can find some tailor-made experiences. Our primary focus would be to promote and provide unique packages to the India market.
What are the shifting trends that you have currently noticed amongst the Indian travellers flying to Slovakia?
Indian travellers are mostly travelling to Slovakia for business purposes that are usually working for global companies such as TAT Consultancy Services, Amazon, Swiss Re, Orange or for Information Technology (IT) companies such as Dell, IBM, Nokia and Ness, to name a few. Last year, more than 200 Indian employees of newly built KIA Motors factory in the south of India successfully travelled for one month of training to KIA Motors’ Slovakia factory.
Indian businesses have already discovered Slovakia and made it their hub for larger European market, citing around 1.5 billion EUR investment that TATA has made in Slovakia for their Jaguar facility. The launch of the most innovative Jaguar Landrover factory in Nitra might bring the increase of Indian business travellers from automotive industry.
Considering the growing demand of Indians’ outbound travelling, how do plan to position your destination as a top preference for the market?
We do not expect to make Slovakia top preference but we want to attract more significant number of Indian tourists. We are already in negotiations with few companies in order to enhance the promotion of Slovakia as an attractive tourist destination.
There is so much that can be offered to potential tourists even by such a relatively small country. For example, on our territory, one may find 120 historical castles, hundreds of other historical buildings and cathedrals, nine national parks and 7000 natural caves. Also, we have, in total, 30 records in the list of world heritage of UNESCO. The country is also famous for its wineries. There are more than 140 boutique wineries in Slovakia.
Any plans for visa relaxation for attracting more Indian travellers to your country in 2019?
Slovakia is a member country of Schengen zone, thus it is processing Schengen visas for Slovakia and following Schengen Visa Code rules. Unless the decision is made by all Schengen countries, no relaxation or concession in the visa processing for Indian citizens is expected. It means that the visa issuing process is the same as to any other European Union (EU) country.