Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Visa openness back to pre-Covid-19 levels: UN Tourism

Tourism destinations’ openness to international travel has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels following the lifting of Covid-19 related travel restrictions, according to a UN Tourism report.

UN Tourism’s latest Tourism Visa Openness report on global visa policies sheds light on the evolving landscape of travel facilitation. It includes the Tourism Visa Openness Index that measures the degree to which destinations facilitate tourism and how open a country is in terms of visa facilitation for tourism purposes.

Also, mobility scores are included to indicate to the extent to which citizens around the world are subject to visa policies, as well as an in-depth analysis of the reciprocity of visa policies.

Fewer people worldwide now require a traditional visa to travel, falling from 77 percent in 2008 to 59 percent in 2018, and then to 47 percent in 2023, the report said.

Other highlights of the report are:

Visa-exempt travel: 21 percent of the world population do not need any form of visa, an increase from 17 percent in 2008 and 20 percent in 2018.

Visa on arrival: 14 percent of the world population can apply for visa on arrival, an increase from 6 percent in 2008 and 15 percent in 2018.

eVisas: 18 percent of the world population can apply for eVisas, an increase from 3 percent in 2013 and 7 percent in 2018.

 The report looks at visa regulations for tourism by region, highlighting:

* Asia and the Pacific had the highest openness score of all world regions.
* The most open sub-regions are South East Asia, East Africa and the Caribbean.
* The greatest increase in openness since the last report in 2018 was observed in South Asia and West Africa.
* The most restrictive regions remain Central and North Africa, North America and Northern and Western Europe.
* Visa exemptions are particularly prevalent in the Caribbean and Central America.
* Visa on arrival policies is common in East Africa, South Asia, South East Asia and West Africa.
* Traditional visa requests in the Middle East decreased from 71 percent of the global population in 2015 to 57 percent in 2023.
* eVisas are prevalent in West and East Africa and South Asia.

 Recommendations for streamlined travel

The report underscores the pivotal role of visa policy improvements in fostering tourism growth. Key recommendations include increased integration of tourism perspectives into visa strategies, targeted visa-exemption programs for low-risk traveler markets and expanded visa on arrival facilities.

In addition, clear communication on visa policies is vital, along with a streamlined visa application process, accelerated processing times and optimized entry procedures for an enhanced visitor experience.

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