Easing visa rules will boost G-20 tourism: UNWTO

Visa facilitation is central to stimulating economic growth and job creation through tourism and the G-20 can have a particularly important role to play in this respect, according to a new report from United Nations World Tourism Organization and the World Travel & Tourism Council.

G-20 economies, which include the leading rich and developing nations, could boost their international tourist numbers by an additional 122 million, generate an extra US$206 billion in tourism exports and create over five million additional jobs by 2015 by improving visa processes, according to the report.

Preliminary findings show that of the 656 million international tourists who visited G-20 countries in 2011, 110 million needed a visa, while millions more were deterred from traveling by the cost, waiting time and difficulty of obtaining a visa.  

In spite of the great strides made in recent decades to facilitate tourist travel, there are still important areas of opportunity, namely considering the possibilities to maximize the use of information and communication technologies in improving visa procedures. Further opportunities include improving the delivery of information, facilitating current processes to obtain visas, differentiated treatment to facilitate tourist travel, instituting eVisa programs and establishing regional agreements for visa facilitation.

Implementing any or a combination of these can yield substantial returns in visits, tourism receipts and jobs for the G-20 economies. “Small steps towards visa facilitation can result in big economic benefits. By facilitating visas, the G-20 countries stand to gain five million jobs at a time of rampant unemployment across the world. These are in addition to the hundreds of millions of direct and indirect jobs already being supported every day by the sector,” said Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General.

G-20 members include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.