Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
With the prospects of visa facilitation creating some five million additional jobs in G20 economies, Jamaica has thrown its full support behind the drive to improve the ease of travel for international visitors.
The country's support comes as the preliminary research by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) show that visa facilitation was central to stimulating economic growth and job creation through tourism.
Fresh from the T20 Ministers' Meeting in Merida, Mexico, two days ago, Jamaica's Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Wykeham McNeill, has thrown his weight behind a UNWTO/WTTC-led declaration.
The declaration seeks to influence changes within the various G20 countries through improved measures that, without being a detriment to the discretionary authority of each state, should simplify visa applications, processing formalities and improve the timeliness of visa issuance.
"Supporting this declaration is in keeping with our efforts to improve the flow of persons through immigration at our island's international airports by making the process seamless but safe," said McNeill.
However, the bigger picture points to G20 economies being able to boost their international tourist numbers by an additional 122 million, generate an extra US$206 billion in tourism exports and create more than five million additional jobs by 2015 by improving visa processes.
Deterred by process
Preliminary findings also show that, of the 656 million international tourists who visited G20 countries in 2011, 110 million needed a visa, while millions more were deterred from travelling by the cost, waiting time and difficulty of obtaining a visa.
Admitting that visa requirements continue to hamper the country's efforts to enter new and emerging markets, McNeill said the declaration underpins the steps Jamaica is taking to address this matter which include waiving visa requirements for persons travelling here from countries in South America such as Panama, Colombia and Venezuela to make travelling easier.
His suggestions are supported by UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifia, who has called for G20 governments to look into enhancing visa facilitation in support of job creation.
"Small steps towards visa facilitation can result in big economic benefits. By facilitating visas, the G20 countries stand to gain five million jobs at a time of rampant unemployment across the world."
David Scowsill, president & CEO of the WTTC, has also added his voice to the declaration.
"Encouraging freedom to travel is a simple step that governments around the world can take to encourage more travellers and the creation of millions of new jobs and billions of dollars of GDP - without compromising national security. For the first time, this report makes clear the extent of the opportunity - it cannot be ignored."
The declaration seeks to influence changes within the various G20 countries through improved measures that … should simplify visa applications, processing formalities and improve the timeliness of visa issuance.