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Governments recognise benefits of visa facilitation

Published:Monday | February 23, 2015 | 11:32 AM

Visa facilitation has experienced strong progress in recent years, particularly through the implementation of visa on arrival policies according to UNWTO's latest Visa Openness Report. This largely reflects an increased awareness among policymakers of the positive impacts of visa facilitation on tourism and economic growth.

According to the report, 62 per cent of the world's population was required a traditional visa prior to departure in 2014, down from 77 per cent in 2008. In the same year, 19 per cent of the world's population was able to enter a destination without a visa, while 16 per cent could receive a visa on arrival, as compared to 17 per cent and six per cent in 2008.

The Report also shows that the most prevalent facilitation measure implemented has been 'visa on arrival'. Over half of all improvements made in the last four years were from 'visa required' to 'visa on arrival'.

"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.

Countries in the Americas and in Asia and the Pacific have been at the forefront of visa facilitation, while Europe and Middle East have more restrictive visa policies. Overall, emerging economies tend to be more open than advanced ones, with South-East Asia, East Africa, the Caribbean and Oceania among the most open subregions.

"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 Rifai.