A new report by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) shows that visa facilitation could create up to 2.6 million new jobs in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies by 2016. The report was presented on the occasion of the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Travel Facilitation (Bali, Indonesia, 1 October 2013).
The report The Impact of Visa Facilitation in APEC Economies indicates that although there has been successful collaboration and advances across the APEC region to facilitate visas, including progressive approaches to implement new visa policies, 21% of expected international tourists arriving into APEC over the period 2014-2016 would still be required to obtain a traditional visa prior to travel under current visa policies.
Facilitating visas for these tourists could create as much as 2.6 million additional jobs in the APEC economies by 2016 and an additional US$ 89 billion in international tourism receipts generated by 57 million more tourists visiting APEC destinations.
Hosting the meeting, the Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy of the Republic of Indonesia, Mari Elka Pangestu, highlighted that the importance of tourism as a vehicle of job creation, economic growth and development in Asia Pacific has been acknowledged by APEC leaders through the launch, in 2011, of the APEC Travel Facilitation Initiative.
“The challenge now is to establish cooperation between officials working in tourism, finance, customs, immigration, security, transportation and airport authorities which are in different working groups. In 2013, through this High Level Policy Dialogue on Travel Facilitation held in Bali, for the fist time, there is an attempt of coordination across fora and we hope to end up with some action plans on visa and travel facilitation,” explained Minister Pangestu
Addressing the APEC High Level Policy Dialogue on Travel Facilitation, UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, called on APEC leaders to look at the opportunities arising from visa facilitation. “This report clearly shows that placing visa facilitation as a national priority can translate into significant socio-economic benefits in terms of income and jobs generated by the growth of tourism demand. APEC has been a leading organization in terms of regional integration and we believe that visa facilitation can contribute significantly to advance APEC’s objectives and the balanced growth of its economies”.
David Scowsill, President & CEO, WTTC, said: “Encouraging freedom to travel is a key strategic priority for WTTC. It is a simple step for Governments which creates jobs, economic growth and incalculable social benefits. This report lays bare for the first time the precise opportunity in APEC economies and demands to be taken seriously by the region’s Governments.”
In spite of the great strides made in recent decades to facilitate tourist travel all over the world, 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 programmes and establishing regional agreements for visa facilitation. UNWTO and WTTC have been working closely together in recent years to promote the value of visa facilitation as a means to stimulate economic growth and development, namely through joint regional studies and cooperation with the T20, the World Economic Forum (WEF), APEC and the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).