Visa Facilitation Begins to Breakdown Barriers to Travel

Visa facilitation has experienced strong progress recently, according to UNTWO’s latest Visa Openness Report.

Visa on arrival policies in particular have become implemented in more areas, and this largely reflects an increased awareness among governments of the positive impacts of visa facilitation on tourism and economic growth.

The report by UNTWO states that in 2014, 62 percent of the world’s population was required to obtain a traditional visa prior to departure, down from 77 percent in 2008. Last year, 19 percent of the world’s population were able to enter a destination without a visa, compared to 17 percent in 2008, while 16 percent could receive a visa on arrival, compared to 6 percent in 2008.

The issue of visa facilitation is one that is regularly raised during our event Strategy Summits. You can find out what is onthe agenda at these sessions at our regional and World events but clicking on the relevant links: Routes Asia, Routes Europe and provisional plans for Routes Middle East & Africa. Details on our Routes Silk Road and World Routes conferences will be announced at a later date.

“Visa facilitation is central to stimulating economic growth and job creation through tourism. Although there is much room for improvement, we are pleased to see that a growing number of governments around the world is taking decisive steps in this regard”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

The report shows that the facilitation of ‘visas on arrival’ has been one of the most prevalent features overall, with over half of all improvements made in the last four years from ‘visa required’ to ‘visa on arrival’.

Countries in the Americas and in the Asia-Pacific region have been at the forefront of visa facilitation, while Europe and the Middle East have taken a back seat, and continue to implement more restrictive visa policies. The report shows that overall, emerging economies tend to be more open than advanced economies, with South-East Asia, East Africa, the Caribbean and Oceania among the most open sub-regions.

“UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to reach 1.8 billion by 2030, and easier visa procedures will be crucial to attract these travellers, especially tourists from emerging source markets like China, Russia, India and Brazil”, added Mr Rifai.

According to another report published by UNTWO last year, ASEAN stands to gain between 6 and 10 million additional international tourist arrivals by 2016 from improved visa facilitation.

Collaboration between countries and recent advances across the region to facilitate visas, including progressive approaches to implement new visa policies, have proven very successful. This collaboration forms part of joint efforts to improve social integration within the region and to grow the national and regional travel and tourism sectors.

David Scowsill, President & CEO, WTTC, said: “Encouraging freedom to travel is a key strategic priority for WTTC. Although the ASEAN countries already collaborate to encourage a better experience for the traveller, there is still more to do and greater economic benefits to be gained.”

Poppy Marello

Poppy joined the Routesonline team after successfully completing a degree in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University. Poppy has a passion for…