Asia Pacific most open for visas – UNWTO

Visa-on-arrival is more common in Asia Pacific
Visa-on-arrival is more common in Asia Pacific

Asia Pacific and the Americas are the most “open” regions in terms of tourist visa requirements, a new UNWTO study has found.

Based on a global evaluation of visa requirements, including the implementation of visa-on-arrival and eVisa policies, the UNWTO found that an average 20% of the world’s population do not require a visa to visit an Asian destination, while 19% could obtain a visa-on-arrival and 7% an eVisa. In terms of the Americas, 31% do not need a visa, but only 8% can get visa-on-arrival and just 1% an eVisa.

European destinations were found to be the most prohibitive. Although 21% of the world population was not required a visa to enter Europe for tourism purposes, only 6% were able to apply for a visa-on-arrival and no eVisa system was in place.

“An overall restrictive visa policy means lost opportunities for economic growth and jobs, which tourism could bring to destinations. Travellers regard visas as a formality which entails a cost. This can be a deterrent to travel if costs – whether monetary or indirect – including distance, wait times and service, exceed a certain threshold,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

On a global level, only 18% of the world’s population were not required a visa at all when travelling for tourism in 2012. On average from 63% of the world’s population were required to obtain a traditional visa before travelling, while a further 16% were able to apply for a visa-on-arrival. Only 2% of the world’s population was allowed to apply for an eVisa.

The UNWTO research does show however, considerable progress over recent years, reducing the amount proportion of the world’s population needing from 77% to 63% between 2008 and 2012, with significant movement over the last two years.

Since 2010, 43 destinations changed the visa process for citizens of at least 20 countries from ‘visa required’ to either ‘no visa required’, ‘visa-on-arrival’ or ‘eVisa’.

“Important strides have been made in recent times in terms of visa facilitation as more and more countries understand its implicit economic benefits. We welcome moves by the USA, the European Union and many other countries which have implemented or are looking into implementing more open visa policies. But we cannot ignore that visa procedures still represent an obstacle to tourism growth and we hope that these good examples can be followed by others,” Rifai added.

According to joint research by the UNWTO and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), released last year, improving visa processes could generate an extra US$206 billion in tourism receipts and create as many as 5.1 million additional jobs by 2015 in the G20 economies alone.

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