Improvements are needed for Denmark to be perceived as a forthcoming and advanced tourist destination, writes Lars Bernhard Jørgensen, Managing Director of Wonderful Copenhagen, the official tourism and congress organization in charge of promoting Copenhagen.
Lars Bernhard Jorgensen acknowledges recent improvements in handling of visa applications. He quotes the Danish Immagration authorities for statistics proving that almost 9 out of 10 applications in 2008 were handled within 5 to 9 days at the Danish embassies abroad.
“However, handling of visa applications from the new growths markets is a problem for Danish tourism,” he continues.
“That is primarily because the handling of visa applications in the more complicated cases is unnecessarily complicated and lengthy og thus send the signal that you are not welcome as a tourist in Denmark.”
According to Lars Bernhard Jorgensen, 16 pct of all visa applications – or some 14.000 applications – were in 2008 forewarded to the central immigration authorities in Copenhagen, where 4-5.000 applications end up being denied.
“Those applications are sent to Immigration Service because the Danish representations do not have authority to deny granting of a visa unlike the Swedish and Norwegian representations. It is this extended handling time of up to 4 – 6 weeks which should be re-evaluated,” he says.
“Denmark has in this respect the longest processing time of all compared to Sweden, Norway, Finland, Netherland, Germany and Belgium and that is especially due to unreasonably strict demands for documentation related to the application. So although we have come some way there are still points that ought to be improved.”
“Never dream of going to Denmark”
In an article published in MetroXpress, Janne J. Liburd, Center for Turisme, Innovation og Kultur at Syddansk Universitet is quoted as recalling how South East Asian participants in a recent conference about tourism said they could never dream of visitng Denmark.
“They perceive us as a self-gratifying nation lacking in tolerance and respect for other people’s values. They said straight out that they could never dreamm of visiting Denmark,” Janne J. Liburd says to the newspaper.
Professor Lise Lyck, an expert in tourism, says she is not surprised at all.
“That attitude against Denmark is far more comon than most people in Denmark think,” she says.
Lars Bernhard Jorgensen also comments on this perception.
“Should it be a positive or a negative experince to apply for a visa to Denmark?,” he asks.
“Should it be possible like in certain other countries – now that we are in 2009 – to apply online for a visa and be approved or denied within 48 hours? Should our representations and official home pages be better in providing information and maybe even promote a visa application with word like: “You are welcome to visit our country – apply here!”,” he continues.
He denies that the downturn in tourism is related to the visa issue, but insists that improvements are needed.
“There is a weird contradiction in the fact that we on one hand focus on creating visibility in order to attract more tourists and investments to Copenhagen and Denmark and then at the same time we can see that certain visa regulations obstruct the turnover in tourism, important international relations and our reputation as an open and globalized nation. Our new Copenhagen brand “COPENhagen – Open for you” – matches poorly with a waiting time of 12 weeks to receive a denial of visa.,” Lars Bernhard Jorgensen writes.