Improve visa facilitation, countries told

Adelaide Moyo Business Reporter
THE United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has urged countries to prioritise and facilitate safe travel across borders as way of boosting tourism. This comes at a time when most countries such as Zimbabwe have come up with policies aimed at revitalising tourism which include among others implementation of the Tourism Master Plan.

At bi-lateral level, Zimbabwe and Zambia have piloted a Uni-visa which is meant to open borders for travellers. In a statement, UNWTO secretary-general, Taleb Rifai said there was a need for countries to improve visa application processes so as to facilitate travel.

“Prioritising travel facilitation is central to stimulating economic growth and job creation through tourism. We’re pleased to see that a growing number of governments around the world think likewise” he said.

“The current security challenges shouldn’t deter us from advancing visa facilitation. On the contrary, enhancing security and facilitating tourism travel should always go hand in hand.

“In fact, at a moment when safety and security are top of the agenda for all of us, we need to work closer together to promote a safe, secure and seamless travel environment by using the possibilities offered by technology and international cooperation in data sharing.”

Rifai said a lot has been done in travel facilitation but several areas of opportunity remain for destinations worldwide to promote a safer and more seamless travel experience.

“UNWTO recommends destinations to focus in particular in a stronger segmentation of travellers, in improving visa application processes and entry procedures, in making use of regional integration opportunities, and in providing precise and accessible information for tourists.

“Countries are further encouraged not to depend on reciprocal improvements, but rather revise their unilateral measures, a tendency which is proving to be stronger than ever,” Rifai said. Zimbabwe is marketing the new look Victoria Falls International Airport as part of measures to increase tourists arrivals.

According to UNWTO’s latest Visa Openness Report, the share of tourists requiring to obtain a visa prior to travelling fluctuates with 39 percent of the world population managing to travel for tourism without obtaining a traditional visa prior to departure in 2015 compared to only 23 percent in 2008.

On average, 18 percent of the world’s population was able to travel to a destination without a visa in 2015, while another 15 percent received visas on arrival and six percent was able to access the facility online.

Research by UNWTO and the World Travel and Tourism Council on the impact of visa facilitation on the G20 economies, as well as on the economies of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations clearly shows that visa facilitation can boost demand, grow exports and create additional jobs.

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