However, the British Embassy deflect the accusation of monopolization on its official web site: ‘The Embassy has entered into a contract with VFS (an Indian company) to outsource its visa application processes. VFS will operate in partnership with Interlink Services, a division of STAR Travel, to operate UK Visa Application Centers in 11 major Russian cities, including Moscow, St Petersburg and Ekaterinburg. The Centers will operate and be advertised as UK Visa Application Centers – they will not carry the name of VFS, Interlink Services, STAR Travel, or any other business or service provider associated with them. The Centers will handle applications for UK visas only. They will not sell, promote or advise on any other travel services, ticketing, tours, etc. The staff who will operate the Centers are currently being recruited. They will not be existing or new STAR Travel staff. They will only work for the UK Visa Application Centers. VFS will retain sole management control of the UK Visa Application Centers, their staff and operations’. Thus, British authorities guarantee the competitive environment.
A BANKO correspondent contacted Boris Samaryanov, General Director of Star Travel to provide some clarification: ‘In 2005 Star Travel participated in the open and transparent tender together with other companies. Therefore, I can not understand the accusation of monopolization. Firstly, I can not use this fact to advertise Star Travel as formally the British party entered into a contract with VFS. Secondly, UK Visa Application Centers will have their own signs. Besides, They will not be existing or new STAR Travel staff’.
Nevertheless, the conflict appeared not to be exhausted: ‘Russian tour operators announce that they will prefer to send their tourists to other destination not to ‘send’ them to their competitor. Therefore, their partners in Britain addressed the Russian Embassy in great Britain expressing their concerns’, commented Turina.
BANKO will continue reporting on the development of events.