Kuwaitis and expats frustrated by ‘Schengen’ delay, compelled to alter travel arrangements.

Citizens and residents of Kuwait are facing a crisis in obtaining a European travel visa “Schengen”, as the dates for applying for visas in some European offices and embassies are not available for months to come, in addition to the short period granted by some European embassies to those wishing to travel to it, which prompted many to change their tourism destinations during this summer, preferring to spend it in countries where travel does not require a visa, reports Al-Qabas daily. According to experts in the travel and tourism market, the majority of visa-issuing offices for European Union countries currently do not have available appointment slots.

There are a few countries that have appointments available in July, which made some apply for a Schengen visa from these countries that they did not plan to visit in the first place. In this case, they first need to enter the country that issued their visas and then travel to their intended destination, which increases the financial costs of their trip. In light of the suffering from the long deadlines for the issuance of Schengen visas, it prompted many to search for other travel destinations such as Turkey, Dubai, Malaysia, Thailand, Egypt and London. Some citizens suffered financial losses because they had already booked hotels and airline tickets to Europe, but were surprised when there were no dates for submitting visa applications.

In this regard, Head of the Union of Travel and Tourism Offices Muhammad Al-Mutairi revealed that, despite the high travel demand rate this summer compared to previous years, it has not reached levels before the COVID-19 pandemic so far. He explained that the current travel rates are 20 percent lower than the travel rates in 2019, and he expects that these numbers will rise during the coming period, especially with the start of the travel season, the end of the school year, and the parliamentary elections. The great competition in the travel and tourism services market in Kuwait has contributed greatly to maintaining reasonable rates for trip prices, which are within everyone’s reach.

Destinations
The most important touristic destinations are still London, Istanbul, Dubai and Cairo. As for the new tourist destinations in eastern European countries, they are still normal and have not witnessed a high demand for them. Al-Mutairi highlighted a change in the behavior of Kuwaiti tourists who prefer to travel alone without being restricted to traveling in groups, using modern means of communication and smart applications to go to destinations that suit their taste.

Furthermore, the CEO of Bash Travel and Tourism Company Suleiman Al-Abdullah said the current travel season is the strongest compared to the past years, especially with the very high demand from citizens to spend the summer vacation abroad. He explained that what distinguishes the current travel season is the preference of the vast majority of travelers to book long vacations and increase the number of vacation days to escape from the pressures of work and study that they went through during the recent months. Many Kuwaitis tend to spend their holidays in countries where travel does not require obtaining a Schengen visa, such as Turkey, Dubai, Malaysia and Thailand.

Those wishing to obtain a Schengen visa suffer from the long deadlines of embassies, in addition to the short period granted by embassies for those wishing to travel there. Regarding the prices of travel and holidays during the current season, Al-Abdullah affirmed the increase in the prices of tickets due to the great demand for spending the summer vacation abroad this year. These prices witnessed an increase at the beginning of this month ranging from KD 350 to KD 400.

He explained that the earthquake in Turkey and the unfortunate events that followed greatly affected the reservation rate to Turkey, but it is still a favorite destination for Kuwaitis during this summer as well. Individual trips for families still dominate the season, and traveling in groups is almost non-existent since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the end of the pandemic, this type of travel is still not preferred. The decision of the electronic travel permit for Britain is excellent, and it would make it much easier for those wishing to spend holidays in London, especially as it is one of the favorite destinations for a large segment of citizens. In view of these facilities, citizens will prefer it over other destinations.

Source- Arab Times.

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