TravelDailyNews: VisaHQ has entered into an agreement with Fliggy to expand the coverage of the latter’s Online Visa Center to 11 new travel destinations (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Georgia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkey and Vietnam). Is there any plans for further expansion?
Alexander Yaroshenko: After this initial launch, during which we are providing automated e-visas for these 11 countries, VisaHQ begin to offer traditional stamped visas in all other countries Chinese travelers need to get to. Our objective is to offer all types of visas to all destinations for all residents of China by the end of the year.
TDN: VisaHQ has been a service partner on Fliggy's Online Visa Center since October 2017. Until now, which do you consider to be the major add-ons for your company from this cooperation?
A.Y.: This partnership with Fliggy is an incredible opportunity for VisaHQ. First, it has contributed to enhancing our open API. This API enabled us to power Fliggy's travel website within two weeks. Today, thanks to the work we’ve done for Alibaba, our API is available for any provider that needs to offer powerful online visa application platform to their clients. The Alibaba Fliggy deal has also opened the entire Chinese travel market to VisaHQ. As we are opening more and more offices in China, we are servicing Alibaba's customers and also any Chinese travelers coming directly to our Chinese website for a visa application. Working with Alibaba at a time where it's within striking distance of surpassing Amazon as the world's biggest e-commerce company is just incredible!
TDN: What do you consider to be the major problem as far as e-visas are concerned in Asia?
A.Y.: The problem with both stamped visas and e-visa is not specific to Asia. What makes it complex for a traveler to apply for visas is that every country, and even every consulate, has its own requirements and specific form to complete. What we provide to Fliggy's users, and our clients across the world, is a simple, user-friendly form, accessible on mobile devices. The form auto fills much of with the user’s profile data, expediting application time by 95%.
That said, many embassies and consulates are looking to simplify the visa application process to attract Chinese tourists. E-visas, combined with facial recognition and easy processing provided by VisaHQ, greatly contribute simplifying travel for Chinese residents.
TDN: VisaHQ has opened an office in Shanghai, and will soon open offices in Beijing and in other major cities in China. How difficult is for a foreign company (not Chinese) like yours to do business in China, regarding issues like "red tape"?
A.Y.: We were fortunate to start with a challenging client like Alibaba. We had to move very fast and dedicate our effort to the success of this deal. Doing business in China is difficult. You need to adjust to cultural differences. You need to understand very complex business regulations. My advice to any foreign companies wanting to do business in China is to hire local Chinese staff and to work with a Chinese partner that will provide this initial guidance to get up and running. This is essential. It is also important to understand that it is not unusual to work without a contract. You must be ready to trust people and to take risks.