Global visa restrictions eased as world welcomes more tourists

Global travellers are less restricted by visa regulations now than in previous years, a new study has found.

According to the UNWTO‘s latest ‘Visa Openness Report’, 62% of the world’s population was required to apply for traditional visa in 2014, down from 77% in 2008.

In addition, the proportion of the world’s population that could enter a destination either without a visa (19%) or with visa-on-arrival (16%) increased in 2014, from a respective 17% and 6% in 2008.

Southeast Asian countries have among the most open visa policies
Southeast Asian countries have among the most open visa policies

In fact, the report highlighted that more than half of all improvements made in the last four years in terms of visa facilitation were countries moving from ‘visa required’ status 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 Asia Pacific have been at the forefront of visa facilitation, according to the UNWTO, while Europe and the Middle East have more restrictive policies. Overall, emerging economies tend to be more open than advanced ones, with countries in Southeast Asia, East Africa, the Caribbean and Oceania offering some of the most relaxed policies.

And the UNWTO noted that these countries will be in stronger position to take advantage of the global tourism boom that will be driven by the world’s major emerging economies in the coming years.

“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,” said Rifai.

Research by UNWTO and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) shows that the G20 economies could boost their international tourist numbers by an additional 122 million generate an extra US$206bn in tourism exports and create over five million additional jobs by improving visa processes and entry formalities. Research carried out for APEC countries indicates that visa facilitation could create of 2.6m jobs in the APEC region.

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